Beating Bullying: Interview with 2010 IL Mom Congress Delegate Jennifer De Franco
The 2011 Mom Congress delegates were posted yesterday, so I’m getting even more excited to meet and connect with them in just a few weeks. After last week’s interview with Tonjia Haskins, I’ve heard from several more rockstar Oregon moms, who I’ll be featuring in upcoming posts. A recent local news story, though — of a 7-year old who was choked with a jumprope at Woodlawn Elementary (one of the schools supported by the program I profiled in an earlier post, the Portland Backpack Program), has me thinking more about the issue of school bullying. The Woodlawn incident is certainly not unique; heere in Oregon, a recent PPS Survey found that 35 percent of PPS eighth-graders and 25 percent of 11th-graders reported being bullied; another Eugene School District Survey noted that more than 40 percent of students observe bullying or harassment once a month or more. These numbers can be even higher among minority populations, students with disabilities, and LGBT students.
To get some perspective and ideas on the bullying issue, I reached out to Jennifer De Franco, the 2010 Illinois Mom Congress Delegate, who will be participating again this year on an Anti-Bullying panel. She lives in Palatine, IL and is the mom of Madisyn, 11 and Devin, 8, and has held various positions on both her local PTA and the IL PTA boards. She also serves on a Community Engagement Facilitation Team for her school district, and recently created a partnership program to assist struggling readers, helping train parents to assist with paired reading time for students in short-staffed classrooms.
Jennifer first observed bullying in her daughter’s Girl Scout troop a few years ago, and began researching what she, as a parent volunteer, could do to help address it. One of the resources she found was the PACER Center, which she used to guide discussions among students, and create content for PSA announcements to broadcast throughout the school. To help send an even stronger message to students, she wrote to her Governor and secured a signed proclamation, noting a week in October as Bullying Prevention Awareness Week, and held a school assembly that several stage officials attended. Jennifer later received a Senate Recognition Certificate, and continues to be a voice of anti-bullying activism in her community, and others.
Naturally, I was curious to ask about Mom Congress experience now that I have just 2 1/2 weeks to go, and asked her what some of her key learnings from experience were. “I found that we are all struggling with many of the same problems in our states… and we all have many of the same frustrations,” she notes. “When we all came together, we worked as a group full of ideas, creativity and, most of all experiences that we could all learn something from, and take back and use in our own state.” Since Mom Congress, she has kept in touch with several other delegates to continue networking and collaborating with other moms on advocacy efforts nationwide, because, as she says, ”outside eyes see more clearly than those involved.” I couldn’t agree more.
I asked Jennifer if she had any advice you would have for parents looking to get involved in local education reform. ”Reform can look different to many, and there are different ways to approach it. You don’t have to be the person standing on the steps of the U.S. Capital talking to the newscasters to make a difference in education. You can be the person at your local board of education meeting asking questions and developing plans to make your own school better”.
The work that Jennifer, and her fellow 2010 Mom Congress delegates have done to help support tough issues like bullying, and other key issues, is inspiring; you can read more from these Mom Congress Reports, “Bully Free: Be the One To Help Kids” and “3 Helpful Anti-Bullying Website“ , and “Lesson Plan for Change“. Be sure to become a Mom Congress fan on Facebook and learn about the 2011 Mom Congress delegates, too!
Thank you, Jennifer, for your time and your inspiration…can’t wait to meet you and everyone else in DC!
HOW TO HELP:
- Watch the video from the recent White House Conference on Bullying Prevention and learn to recognize the warning signs
- Read about recent efforts to address PPS student Harassment including the new district harassment and bullying policy and the PPS Anti-Harassment agreement
- Learn about Steps to Respect, a research-based bullying prevention program which has led to significant decreases in bullying and malicious gossip in PacNW schools
- Read the OEA’S “Squaring off Against Bullying“, and learn about the various stages of bullying among students
- Download the Pacer Center‘s daily toolkits, classroom activities, and free bullying bookmarks, and a many other resources
- Engage in the National PTA’s “Connect for Respect” campaign, including PTA planning tools, school best practices, parent tip sheets and more.
- Follow President Obama’s StopBullying.Gov on Facebook
- Support the petition for the NEA’s new campaign, “Bully Free: It Starts with Me” , downloard tip sheets and stories, Sign the pledge, or arrange a screening of the new film “Shout it Out” at your school.
- Read “Four Steps Schools Can Take to Address Anti-LGBT Bullying and Harassment” and many other resources from GLSEN, The Gay, Lesbian Straight Network and connect with the Oregon chapter here,