Friday, June 9, 2006
Schoolyard bullying in Carlisle?
Bullying is a common problem, experienced even in excellent schools in affluent communities such as ours. It is hard for parents to imagine their children as perpetrators, but I would wager that most children have, at some point, either been a victim, a bystander, or have bullied others. The Carlisle School continues to work hard on this chronic problem.
For many years the school has used the Open Circle Program, developed at Wellesley College to teach social skills to children in the lower grades. This year the guidance department announced that the program is being augmented to include extra lessons about bullying and teasing.
Open Circle training has been made available to a small class of parents each spring. However, there are probably many parents who do not think they have the time to take a multi-week class, but who would like to learn how to deal with bullying. Recently, Principal Steven Goodwin helped parents in my daughter's class when questions arose about this issue. He held an evening meeting in the school library, where about a dozen parents met with Goodwin, the classroom teacher and two school psychologists. They showed a video, led a general discussion and gave parents helpful pointers. I really appreciated these professionals taking extra time after their normal school day to meet with parents. This week Goodwin, Superintendent Marie Doyle and Vice-Principal Michael Giurlando shared their views on bullying with Mosquito reporter Darlene D'Amour, whose article, "No bullies allowed" appears on page 1.
We are fortunate to have a school where the problem is taken seriously. It will be difficult to eliminate all bullying, and it may be that no single approach works with all children. However, the most progress can be made when parents, faculty and administrators share ideas and work together.
A memorial to Vivian Chaput is being erected and will be dedicated on Old Home Day. I can think of no one more deserving of this tribute than she, a woman who served as a member of the Plannning Board for 16 years and then served as Selectman from 1996 until her death in 2004. Since her death, her presence in town has been deeply missed, so this memorial should be a lasting reminder of service to a small town, but I wonder — how long will it last?
We have not always been kind to our memorials here in Carlisle. Take, for example, the one to Rory Bentley. Shortly after I moved here in 1984, a 13-year-old runner named Rory Bentley collapsed and died of heart failure. Donations to a memorial fund went towards building a par course near Spalding Field in his memory a short time later. This par course was described at the time of its dedication as something that would have meant so much to a runner like Rory. An excerpt from his diary, describing how much such fitness endeavors meant to him, was included on a plaque erected on the site. Less than two decades later, however, the par course was gone, removed so that the Diment Park Tot Lot could be built. Fortunately, thanks to an Eagle Scout project, the Rory Bentley par course has been recreated near the upper parking lot on the Banta-Davis Land, where it will now, hopefully, enjoy the long life such a memorial deserves.
The par course fared much better than the Skip Anderegg memorial garden at the Carlisle Public School. Skip, who served the town in many capacities, spent years toiling as the newspaper's school reporter. When she died in 1989, several of her friends created, with the sanction of the school administration, a small garden and outdoor sitting area in her memory. It was a little oasis outside the Robbins Library windows — a lovely spot enjoyed by students and teachers alike, that is, until the school needed to expand a few years later and her garden became the site of an elevator shaft. The garden lasted less than ten years.
A more lasting tribute to Skip lies in Green Cemetery, where her gravestone, surrounded by a small but striking garden, admonishes the observer to "Go, See, Do." I visit this portion of the cemetery, for not only does Skip rest here, but so does Judy Goodenough, whose epitaph is a quotation from one of her lovely poems. I find, though, when I stand at their graves that I can look up and, over the stark New England stone wall, see the future site of tennis and basketball courts. If I look to the right, I can see where the trees will come down to make room for a third parking lot for Banta-Davis. I won't go into whether or not more fields are needed, but in all the recent debates over the Banta-Davis development, I have heard few voices, if any, speaking up for the preservation of the serenity of Green Cemetery, the site of many of our own private memorials.
How do you address the issue of the impermanence of memorials in a town where land often is considered more valuable than what rests upon it? Better long-term planning, perhaps — surely the school must have known that the Anderegg garden sat on land ripe for imminent school expansion. Or maybe we should stop using the term "memorial" lightly — saving it only for that which we vow to preserve. As a town that says it treasures its history, we should acknowledge that such gardens, par courses and cemeteries are as much a valuable part of our character as any historic building or Historical Society exhibit.
It has been whispered that the Town Offices may need to be expanded some day soon. But the Chaput Memorial is to be located at the far end of the parking lot, and comprised of sizeable boulders. Sounds pretty permanent, doesn't it? Knock wood.
© 2006 The