Dallas-Area Schools Step Up to Address Bullying
Published: Thursday, December 6, 2012
Updated: Thursday, December 6, 2012 20:12
Walking into a school among the hustle and bustle of students changing classes, it is hard to notice anything out of the ordinary. Students look for their friends to catch up for a few minutes before splitting off again for another class period. Others change out their textbooks from their lockers, or visit the restrooms.
It may look like everything is running smoothly, and nothing is out of the ordinary.
But some of these students are likely experiencing bullying. It might not be the bullying you see in a movie with a kid being shoved in a locker; it can be as simple as a student quietly being called names, or getting text messages spreading vicious rumors, or a bullying message on an online social media site.
Every seven minutes a student is bullied, with over 85 percent of all incidents having no intervention, according to the School Counselors of Florida Professional Development institute.
Felicia Garcia, who has a student in middle school in DISD, was surprised to hear such high statistics but has seen a slight change in the district’s handling of bullying this school year.
“My child says bullying still does happen at school but it happens when teachers are not around,” said Garcia.
DISD implemented a new online reporting system this fall for any staff to be able to report bullying incidents. All staff were trained on the program in October including how to use the system to report all of the details of the incident along with the type of bullying occurred. The principal of the school is notified of submissions and is able to direct it to counseling services, youth and family services, or discipline.
“Counselors are working on training not only staff but students as well,” said Sylvia Lopez, director of Counseling Services for DISD.
The district’s counselors are required to go into classes to talk about bullying, cyber bullying, Internet safety and other topics. There are also a variety of programs in place including an online resource from NetSmart that features an online safety kit.
“Our counselors are continually getting more information about cyber bullying and teaching about Internet safety,” said Lopez.
Other schools around north Texas are also putting new policies in place to combat bullying.
Dallas Academy, a private school in east Dallas, implemented a bullying policy in fall 2010 and has since revised the program to better fit the school environment. The program was renamed in spring of 2011 to “Students Helping Other Students”. The school holds classes for students monthly to discuss issues like how to handle emotions, peer pressure, handling diversity, and how to speak up.
Sarah Jayroe, public relations officer for Dallas Academy, said that the program has had positive feedback from both parents and students.
When a parent sends their child to school, they expect for their child to be safe and be able to focus on academic learning. With research showing such high reports of bullying states, including Texas, have started implementing laws around the issue.
The School Counselors of Florida research also showed that 85 percent of the bullying occurred inside the school.
While bullying becomes a larger focus for school districts across the nation, students are also experiencing bullying online. According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics on Cyber Bullying Research Center, 52 percent of students reported being bullied online.
The state of Texas passed a law in May 2011 for school districts to develop an anti-bullying policy giving basic guidelines for them to follow. The Texas Education Code, Chapter 37 requires each school district to have a policy that “prohibit bullying, harassment, and making hit lists and ensure district employees enforce those prohibitions.”
In late October, a teen at McKinney Boyd High School was arrested for threatening to conduct a mass shooting at his school. After the incident, a number of students said that he was bullied for being gay, autistic, and atheist. The district after the incident stood by the fact it would not use that as an excuse for the student.
McKinney ISD’s Student Welfare from Bullying Policy does not specifically mention online bullying, but the district does have an online complaint form that can be used by students with protection of receiving no retaliation.
Students who have been bullied sometimes decide they cannot take the pain anymore, with more than 14 percent considering suicide and over seven percent attempting it.
In Arlington, a student attempted suicide after being bullied, which encourage another student who had faced bullying herself but had received counseling to start a campaign in the school district.
Bullying is defined as the use of superior strength or influence to intimidate someone. This broad definition is similar to how Dallas Independent School District has decided to take on the term.
According to the DISD Student Code of Conduct Handbook, bullying can range from taunting, teasing, rumor-spreading, and unwanted electronically transmitted acts. The handbook policy leaves the punishment to be in correlation with the incident saying, “consequences for a student who commits an act…shall be unique to the individual incident.”
This high number has caused school districts to address the issue of how a school can implement anti-cyber bullying protection. The DISD anti-bullying policy adopted earlier this year does allow the district to investigate into bullying online.