The Ottumwa Courier

November 27, 2012

Cardinal participating in governor’s anti-bullying summit

Courier Staff Writer

ELDON — A school where students care about the feelings of others and are willing to stand up for their fellow students would be a school where kids would feel comfortable learning.

That’s one of the reasons the Joel Pedersen, superintendent of Cardinal schools is bringing 45 students and teachers to the Governor's Bullying Prevention Summit in Des Moines today, where he’ll be a guest on one of the panels.

“I’ll be speaking, yes, but I’m mostly there to listen,” Pedersen said. “And learn things that are working in other school districts and [gain] ideas from national experts that we can adapt to work down here.”

It’s not that there’s a lot of harassment at Cardinal, said student Lindsay Albert, one of the high school students attending today’s anti-bullying seminar.

“We don’t really have a lot of bullying, but it does happen,” she said. “I hope the whole summit will give me insight of what to do if I ever have or see a situation with another student.”

Perhaps more importantly, she’ll be able to share what she learns.

“Most of us were bringing notebooks to write down what we can teach the other kids,” Albert said. “We want to go to the elementary school students and start early, to show them this isn’t right.”

Pedersen said he wants students to help guide the way toward maintaining a safe school.

“We’ll have multiple levels of leadership,” he said. “Students, teachers and administrators, and we’re hoping to add parents or the community at a later date.”

That way, he said, they can turn to students not as informers but as advisors.

“We’re working on ‘Safe Schools’ certification from the state, and that’s one of the eight components.  This is a way for us to hopefully build a student leadership team and [increase] accountability and capacity in the schools at multiple levels.”

Of course, a one-day conference isn’t going to change the world, Pedersen said. But it can get students and staff excited about curbing harassment or bullying issues — and that excitement can spread.

“The ultimate goal is to create more empathetic students, to have a school with more defenders [than bullies],” he said.

Albert said Cardinal teachers and administrators have been encouraging the idea that each person should try to “do no harm,” a philosophy that she feels has been catching on.

“I’m hoping after this whole thing that we could get a group started that could prevent bullying,” she said.

Pedersen’s goal is broad-based.

“It’s not just bullying,” he said, “it’s about the school culture and how we treat each other.”

School districts have been asked to do more and more with society’s future generation: From teaching them reading and math to teaching them to drive and perform CPR. There’s only so much educators can focus on during a six-hour day and still be successful as teachers.

“But this is one of the key components that can improve climate and culture,” the superintendent said. “And if you can improve climate and culture, I believe that directly impacts student achievement.”

On the web:

Those interested in following this discussion further can watch parts of the summit streaming online live from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at

In addition, follow the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #NoBullyIA.


Note: Due to an incorrect press release, the Twitter hashtag for the conference was inaccurate. The story has been corrected to show the right hashtag.