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Members of the U.S. Embassy community in Seoul question DODDS personnel about problems with bullying in the schools during a Thursday night meeting.
Members of the U.S. Embassy community in Seoul question DODDS personnel about problems with bullying in the schools during a Thursday night meeting. (Jimmy Norris / S&S)
Members of the U.S. Embassy community in Seoul question DODDS personnel about problems with bullying in the schools during a Thursday night meeting.
Members of the U.S. Embassy community in Seoul question DODDS personnel about problems with bullying in the schools during a Thursday night meeting. (Jimmy Norris / S&S)
DODDS South Korea superintendent Charles Toth tells members of the U.S. Embassy community about school operations during an open meeting Thursday night
DODDS South Korea superintendent Charles Toth tells members of the U.S. Embassy community about school operations during an open meeting Thursday night (Jimmy Norris / S&S)

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Department of Defense Dependents Schools Korea officials said Friday they will add monitors and conduct new training following accusations from some parents that bullying is a bigger problem than previously thought.

Current DODDS Pacific-wide efforts to combat bullying aren’t working in South Korea, some State Department parents said at a Thursday night meeting at the Embassy Association building.

Many of the parents recommended more supervision on the playground and other areas within the schools. Few parents had negative comments about the middle and high schools but some specifically cited Seoul American Elementary School for disciplinary and classroom problems.

One couple said they pulled their kids from the school last year, while a few others said they wished they had.

Four additional playground monitors will start working at the elementary school within the next two weeks, DODDS Korea assistant superintendent Peter Grenier told Stripes on Friday.

“If parents would have gone earlier to school advisory meetings, we could have implemented changes a lot sooner,” he said.

Within the next two weeks, lunchroom monitors also will receive new training on dealing with bullying behavior, Grenier said.

The State Department pays DODDS up to about $19,000 per child, depending on grade level, if its employees choose to send their children to the on-base schools.

About 60 people — mostly U.S. Embassy employees — attended Thursday’s meeting.

“There is a disconnect between the theory and the practicality,” said parent Pat Caprigliore of the school’s anti-bullying program.

“My son’s been kicked and karate-chopped,” Caprigliore added. “(My daughter) was so mercilessly teased after her first drama event that she will never do it again.”

One mother said her son’s fourth-grade teacher was one of the best she’d encountered. But, she added, “I know from talking to many of the other parents that they haven’t had the same experience.”

Another parent said she regretted not pulling her son out of the elementary school, calling it “the worst year of his life.” However, she had only positive things to say about the middle school.

A father who pulled his daughter from Seoul American Elementary School after last year said embassy parents should not send their children to DODDS schools until drastic changes are made.

“One child that they claimed that (my daughter) was bullying, I saw chasing my daughter with a stick,” said Michael Bricker, embassy information systems attache. “This same child head-butted my daughter in my wife’s company.”

Bricker said his daughter was forced to act as a “slave” to another student by doing what the child asked so other children wouldn’t bully her.

Some administrators and teachers who attended the meeting said they were surprised by the parents’ comments.

“I didn’t know all that you’re sharing with me, to be completely honest with you,” said DODDS South Korea superintendent Charles Toth, who then promised to look into adding more help.

If you’re concerned about bullying in DODDS schools or have your own story to tell, e-mail Erik Slavin at: slavine@pstripes.osd.mil

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