KEARNEY, Neb. (KGFW) – Monday night, our sons and daughters, who passionately comprise Kearney High School’s “Rowdies,” the student section at sports events, were subjected to five minutes of criticism by a Grand Island Public Schools social worker.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have two sons at Kearney High, a Senior and a Sophomore. Both were in the Rowdies section, February 3rd, when Kearney and Grand Island Senior High squared off on the hardwood. My wife and I were also in attendance for the boys' game. Our senior and his friends anchor the front row this year. I’ve had the opportunity to watch our boys and their friends, in my own home, grow and mature into respectful, kind, and courteous young men and women.
The game: The atmosphere was electric. It was “toga night” for KHS. The student sections of both schools were entertaining - lobbing volleys back and forth in good fun. KHS has received sportsmanship recognition in the past.
Fast forward to last night’s Kearney Public Schools Board meeting.
Patti Bennett, a social worker for GIPS and a parent with a child in Kearney Public Schools, took the podium during the public comment period.
Ms. Bennett claimed that our students stormed the court, disregarding instruction from the public address announcer not to do so.
“This incident raised a number of concerns for me about the school climate. First in a very public manner, it was demonstrated that the students couldn’t be controlled at this game,” Bennett said. “When students neglected to follow instructions it made me wonder if students regularly disregard instructions during an average school day and if so what’s being done about it.”
While it is true that such an announcement to remain in the stands was made - our students complied until such time that they were allowed to move down, partially onto the court, and wait for parents to take photos. Parents and students alike were on the court celebrating a win and laughing at our kids' yoga-tying skills.
Ms. Bennett addressed a brief moment after the Rowdies were gathered by school administration at the edge of the court. “The more important concern, however, was the poor sportsmanship shown by the taunting chants of ‘loser, loser.’”
“Taunting is a common form of bullying,” lectured Bennett. “Both have assured me that this type of taunting and bullying behavior crossed the line,” she said of speaking with KHS Principal Dr. Jay Dostal and KPS Superintendent Dr. Kent Edwards. “I hope highlighting our experience on February third will cause the school board and the school administration to ask the hard questions.”
What about highlighting the personal targeting of and taunting toward one of our basketball players by Grand Island’s student section? I’m sure there are some parents who could fill Ms. Bennett in.
Ms. Bennett continued, “to me this is not only a school problem but also a parent problem and a community problem and that’s why I’m here today.”
Now, I think we can all agree that bullying is something we shouldn’t take lightly. I certainly don’t. I believe we should call it out when we see it.
I was bullied ruthlessly as a student in Grand Island Public Schools. I was chased home from Howard Elementary School and beaten up on what seemed like a daily basis. At Walnut Junior High I was verbally and physically accosted. In one particular incident, I watched helplessly while a bully crushed my glasses in his hands; despite my pleas. And, the few times I stood up for myself, I found myself in in-school suspension.
So, I think I have a clear idea of what bullying is.
The only bullying that I personally witnessed in connection to February 3rd occurred last night with Ms. Bennett’s passive-aggressive lambaste of our children at a public meeting.
Additionally, because Ms. Bennett bolted immediately after making her comments she wasn’t able to hear about the wonderful educators who are retiring after decades of pouring themselves into our students.
As a parent of two Rowdies, I feel like KPS administration should have stood up for our students. However, according to Ms. Bennett’s statements, it appears our kids were thrown under the bus.
I believe that our Rowdies, their parents, and our community, deserve an apology.