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Manteca Unified takes pro-active bullying stance
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Jose Buenrostro wasn’t happy when his son came home the victim of a bully.

It wasn’t “kids will be kids.” The Woodward School student’s knee was torn up and from what he could make of the situation, the students responsible were handed a one-day suspension.

It is what Buenrostro viewed as the proverbial “slap on the wrist.”

When it comes to disciplinary issues involving students, Manteca Unified School District, by law, cannot comment. But through a series of outreach efforts – most recently an entire month of assemblies and programs – administrators are doing everything within their power to squash bullying problems while adapting to a playing field that is shifting with the technological times.

“It takes an entire community to stand up against this trend,” said Manteca Unified Director of Child Welfare and Attendance Rupinder Bhatti. “Our goal as a district is to work on that and make that the standard.”

Not every unpleasant experience on the playground, however, falls under the broad umbrella of bullying.

There are schoolyard fights. There are disagreements between students. According to Bhatti, in order for bullying to truly take place, aggressive behavior needs to be exhibited over time in a fashion that shifts the balance of power or strength.

That blurry line can sometimes leave things muddled, even if more than one of those has been checked.

When Asianya Jones made a snap judgment at Lathrop High School earlier this year and decided to break up a fight that the investigating police officer described as “brutal,” she was honored by the city council for her heroic actions.

The only problem was that many of her fellow students didn’t see it that way. While she was being lauded by the glad-handers at city hall, her name was being whispered in hushed tones in the hallways at Lathrop High because she stepped in and broke up a “good fight” – one where students had pulled out their camera phones and started to record it for posting on the Internet..

The advent of social media and its ability to allow videos like the ones from the Lathrop High fight to circulate – without editorial commentary – is another thing that Bhatti and other district administrators have to toe-the-line on.

“It’s definitely an area of concern because there are free speech issues and Constitutional issues but we do try and make sure that the postings are appropriate,” she said. “We try to teach the students what is appropriate and educate the teachers and even the parents about what to look out for, and we need to look out for those types of issues.

“The key to this is taking a proactive role, and since we don’t have a district-wide policy – all of our sites are individual and are able to assess what their respective needs are – knowing the students and the parents and what happens on campus is important.”