Monday, June 13, 2011

What Our Data Tells Us About Bullying

I was a little disappointed to see the recent headline in the Waterloo Courier "Schools Fail to Meet Anti-Bullying Requirements".  The article accuses school districts of "under reporting or flat out ignoring student harassment" (sic).  To add insult to injury, the Director of the Department of Education, Jason Glass implies that the reported numbers are unbelievable.  I respectfully disagree with Director Glass.

It could be that the numbers are under reported, but if that is the case it is not because of subterfuge on the part of the school district.  If the numbers are unreported, it could be that students are not reporting bullying and harassment to district officials.  I can assure you that when a case of bullying and harassment is reported at Hudson, it is vigorously investigated and if founded appropriate consequences are administered.  I can also take great pride in the fact that we have very few instances where there is a second bullying offense.  We go to great lengths to properly educate our staff and students as to what bullying is, how to recognize it, and what to do when they see it. 

In fact, this year we were even more vigilant in our efforts to prevent, investigate, and protect the rights of students due to the rash of student suicides across the nation this past school year. 

The problem is that the bully is incredibly sneaky.  How often do you think someone is actually bullied right in front of a teacher?  Or, when it is reported it is done with the caveat (from the person reporting the bullying) that we don't do anything about it out of fear of retribution.  That's right, we have received phone calls from upset parents who want to report an incident of bullying but they don't want us to do anything about it.  However, more often than not it is simply ignored by the victim, the student doesn't say anything or swears his or her friends to secrecy.  It makes it kind of difficult to do our jobs with our hands tied behind our backs.

Now then, the question you are all dying to ask.  How many cases of bullying and harassment were reported and founded at Hudson during the 2010-2011 academic year?  Fifteen, and consequences ranged from additional education with the perpetrator on what defines bullying and harassment, all the way up to and including expulsion of the student.

We will never back away from what our data tells us.  If it is true that our numbers are under reported, you can help us.  How?  If you see something that doesn't look right please tell a school official.  If your child has been a victim of bullying and harassment, have them report it.  Don't let them talk you out of it, and if necessary go with them to visit the principal or At-Risk Coordinator.  If you are wrong, there is no harm done.  If you have a child that may have perhaps crossed that line, help us to educate them.  I always tell parents that it is much easier to learn that lesson now than it is later on in life.

These simple steps can help save a student from perpetual torment, and consequences that are far graver than a suspension or expulsion.  School is supposed to be an enjoyable, safe, and fun place for our students.  Can you help ensure that it is?

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