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Bullying rules sent home with Zeman fifth-grade students

These rules regarding bullying, including “the number one reason bullies hate their victims is because the victims tell on them," were sent home with Zeman Elementary fifth-graders this week. LPS has apologized.

Lincoln Public Schools officials apologized Wednesday for a flier about “turning bullies into buddies” that went home with Zeman Elementary fifth-graders, prompting complaints from parents and angry comments on Facebook.

"That list of 9 rules for dealing with bullies was hands down the worst advice any person could give to another," said one message on the LPS Facebook page.

Zeman Principal Donna Williams sent an electronic message to families apologizing for the flier, and the district posted the apology on its Facebook page.

Among other things, the flier advises not telling on bullies because “the number one reason bullies hate their victims is because the victims tell on them.” The flier goes on to say, “Telling makes the bully want to retaliate. Tell an adult only when a real injury or crime (theft of something valuable) has occurred. Would we keep our friends if we tattled on them?”

LPS Communications Director Mary Kay Roth said the flier was not approved to be sent home and was inadvertently included in fifth-graders’ Tuesday folders that went home to parents. Such folders typically contain student work and other information for parents.

“It’s a staff issue, so we’re taking care of the staffing error,” Roth said. “It wasn’t supposed to be sent home.”

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She declined to elaborate on exactly how it happened, but said Zeman teachers will talk to all fifth-graders Thursday to clarify how the district believes students should handle bullying.

“Our educators at Zeman Elementary School work hard to provide accurate and appropriate lessons and education for our students in how to handle bullying situations,” Williams, the principal, said in the message to parents. “The flier was sent home with good intentions, unfortunately it contained advice that did not accurately reflect LPS best practices regarding response to bullying incidents.”

Student Services Director Russ Uhing said the district has ongoing lessons about bullying, and fifth-graders at Zeman had been talking about how to handle the situation if they become targets of a bully. That message, he said, was “very different” from the one that was sent home.

The information shared with students in class, Uhing said, included LPS’s philosophy: asking the bully to stop, then walking away; and if it continues, telling a parent or teacher.

​Reach the writer at 402-473-7226 or mreist@journalstar.com.

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Education reporter

Margaret Reist is a Lincoln native, the mom of three high school graduates now navigating college and an education junkie who covers students, teachers and policymakers inside and outside the K-12 classroom.

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