The Kyrene Education Association has teamed up with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) to train staff on how to implement the district's anti-bullying policies.

"It is an important thing to address," said Kyrene school board president Michelle Hirsch, who attended a training session on Saturday. "The teacher has to manage the classroom when it comes to bullying and sometimes we don't always know how to do that. This class gave resources and situations that teachers can encounter."

About 30 people attended the six-hour class and heard from GLSEN members and also participated in activities such as role-playing for classroom situations.

Hirsch gave the example of students using the word "gay" as a derogatory term to call one another. She said there are ways to deal with that situation while not embarrassing either the student using the word or the one who is being targeted.

"When that does happen, the teacher can be very direct and ask the student ‘what do you mean by that?'" she said. "It gets the student to think - did I say something hurtful, do I even know what I am saying? It gives them a chance to reflect."

The Kyrene governing board adopted changes in December to its bullying policy that added specified language to include bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

KEA president Erin Kirchoff talked about the importance of supporting all students, especially those who are being bullied.

"There was a study that said if students know there are six or more adults they can talk to about (being bullied), they are less likely to miss school and hurt themselves," she said. "I think being honest with students of what will and will not be tolerated is the best way to go about it."

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