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Parent speaks about increasing physical bullying to Farmington School Board

Kathy Katzenberger voiced concern about increasing bullying in schools against her daughter during the open forum at the Oct. 22 Farmington School Board meeting. But only a few people who sat in the chamber audience heard the Farmington parent speak.

The six-member board and two student representatives were in attendance, but the woman's voice was not heard by the general public because of new changes implemented by the school board.

The school board voted in recent months to change the open forum format. The forum used to be televised and it was open at 6:30 p.m. prior to the business meeting. Now the public forum starts earlier at 6:15 p.m. before the scheduled board meeting and it is not televised.

Farmington School Board Chair Melissa Sauser reminded all who speak during the open forum how comments cannot exceed five minutes per speaker.

The protocol is that during and after the open forum, the school board and administration will delay action or response, pending review and recommendation by the superintendent. Sauser reminded speakers it is unlawful to slander or take part in character assassination during the public meeting.

Work to reduce bullying

Katzenberger spoke how she founded a virtual way to share information about bullying. She set up an online sharing method on a local Facebook group called "It Takes a Village."

"We are going to work towards trying to help the families and kids who are going through a lot of bullying here in Farmington, and what I have been hearing with all of the comments from people who have partnered in the group so far is the bullying situation has been a problem for a very long time and it is just getting progressively worse," Katzenberger said.

She introduced her daughter, Madelyn who sat in the front row of the chamber audience. Her daughter proceeded to record the open forum with her cellphone.

"I never realized how bad it is — I was here before in reference to something that happened on a school bus," Katzenberger said. That was when her daughter attended elementary and now she is a middle school student.

"Things went from bad to extremely bad and to the point where my daughter had to be hospitalized, and this year we decided to put her at Gateway so that she could be in a place where people are more accepting of her," she added.

The bullying incidents have grown into physical violence, she said.

"Even though there was a police presence at a homecoming game, they weren't that far away when she was actually attacked by those kids, and from what I understand those kids have been reprimanded," Katzenberger said.

Bullying intensifies

In May 2017, Katzenberger spoke during the televised open forum about her daughter who decided to exit her school bus before her regular stop destination near her Farmington home.

Her daughter was filled with so much fear and anxiety; she decided to flee the bullying situation to avoid the continual taunts and bullying from a student riding the school bus.

Back then, Katzenberger said "As a parent, I feel I need to continue to bring awareness about the constant bullying that occurs on our buses and I understand buses drivers are very limited in what they can do with behavioral incidents that occur on their bus because dealing with it could compromise the safe operation of the bus and getting our children to and from school on schedule."

A year and a half ago, Katzenberger voiced concerns about how today's technology further intensifies bullying and how most students carry cellphones and use social media.