A conversation about civility in the schools

The incivility that has marked the 2016 presidential election has become subject matter in school, a Boise School District administrator said Tuesday night.

And that’s not a bad thing.

City Club civility forum
City Club panelists, from left, Stephanie Myers; Isabel Cortens; Janet Cherry; and Tamara Fredrickson. Bill Russell of Northwest Nazarene University moderates.

“It can be a great opportunity for all of us to examine our own civility,” said Tamara Fredrickson, the district’s student services administrator, during a City Club of Boise forum Tuesday evening.

As GOP voters went to polls across Idaho — including a polling place at Boise’s South Junior High School — an audience of about 80 people gathered in the school auditorium to talk about civility in the schools. This was the first of a series of City Club forums focusing on civility in public life.

Here are a few quotes from Tuesday’s speakers:

  • High school brings together students with different aims, goals and challenges, and that can be “exhilarating,” said Isabel Cortens, a Timberline High School senior and student adviser for the Boise Public Schools Foundation. “(It’s) truly a place where human beings become individuals.”
  • Even when social media incivility occurs outside the classroom — and before or after the school day — it has a pervasive effect. “It always gets brought back to school,” said Janet Cherry, principal at West Junior High School.
  • Part of the challenge in combating incivility on social media is in teaching children the permanence of their comments. “What they put out there is a reflection of who they are,” said Stephanie Myers, a special education teacher and president of the Boise Education Association.
  • When a child is a bullying victim, parents may first try to protect their child’s privacy. But the sooner school officials know about a bullying incident, the better. “If you can let schools know, we can support students,” Fredrickson said.
  • Schools constantly wrestle between fostering civility and allowing open discourse and inquiry on sensitive issues. “Kids are asking questions because they’re curious, and they want to get the answers,” said Cherry.
  • Cortens said her school has sometimes gotten a bad rap for fans’ behavior at sporting events. There’s a fine line between school spirit and bad behavior. “When it starts tearing kids apart, that’s when it becomes unnecessary, and really hurtful.”

If you want to hear the conversation in full, you can catch a rebroadcast on KBSX, 91.5 FM in Boise, at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Disclosure: I am a member of the City Club of Boise board, and was involved in organizing Tuesday night’s forum.