‘It’s how that child feels’Highland bullying program draws concerns
RIVERSIDE — When Highland Community School District board member Megan Moss Allen asked about the survey results from last year’s OLWEUS program and how bullying is being handled in the district, Superintendent Chris Armstrong said the problem is there isn’t a good definition for what bullying is.
“Part of the problem is that the definition of bullying is not clear,” Armstrong said. “Not everybody has the same understanding of the definition of bullying. While there is behavior that takes place that is unacceptable, it doesn’t necessarily fall into a bullying incident.”
Armstrong said there is a difference between bullying and teasing. He also said the national press hasn’t helped with the definition of bullying either.
“For everything and anything, everything is bullying,” he said. “We need to continue to educate our students, our teachers, our community on what bullying is and what bullying isn’t. Not saying at any point that some kid does something inappropriate to another kid, ‘oh, that isn’t bullying so we’ll ignore it.’ ”
He said the district would need to continue to use OLWEUS to determine the definition of bullying. He said the administration would continue to have meetings and would work on communicating to the parents as OLWEUS taught them to do and continue to talk to the community about what bullying is.
“OLWEUS” teaches a student about what bullying is and how it differs from other actions according to the Web site <www.olweus.org>. It is being used in all of the district’s schools.
Allen said there are different impressions on whether or not the current program is working.
“You have the impression of what the administration thinks and you have the impression of what the community thinks,” Allen said. “If conversations were held with parents, I think you would see there is a skewed view of whether they believe OLWEUS is actually working, and so that’s one of the things that should be discussed.”
Allen also said she would like to discuss what the difference is between being teased and being bullied.
“In the end it’s how that child feels, I would think,” Allen said. “That’s just something I would like to see us kind of work on—is to be a little more consistent across the board.”
Allen said she had some parents mention some things about bullying and how the online form worked. Some of the parents asked Allen how the incident was handled after being reported online.
Highland High School principal Angela Hazelett said she stressed having the online reporting for bullying was needed in the district.
“I think when you have students that come to you that are afraid of retaliation, I think it’s important that you have an ability to anonymously report,” Hazelett said. “Whether it’s student, parent, whoever, that something’s going on or witnessed, they can submit a report anonymously.”
Once the online report is submitted it is sent to Hazelett and all of the district’s administrators, Hazelett said.
Allen also asked if the current policy covered online bullying such as posts on Facebook.
Hazelett said there is a policy in place for cyber bullying but state guidelines say there has to be a connection to the school.
“If a kid’s posting something to Facebook, if there’s a connection to school, it either has affected this kid’s attendance, it affected their grades, or there’s comments made at school,” Hazelett said. “Whatever, if we can make a nexus to that interaction that happened off campus to school, we can take care of it and we can deal with it, and we do.”
Hazelett also said that the reports they file with the state are serious. If there is an accusation against a staff member, a volunteer, or a student, the state tracks it by the student’s ID number.
“It’s serious,” Hazelett said. “When someone accuses someone of bullying it’s a very serious accusation that we take very seriously and the state takes very seriously.”
Allen also brought up the subject sexting. Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photographs between mobile phones.
“A parent brought this up where a student got caught in another district with an inappropriate picture on their phone and showed it off,” Allen said.
She said the parent also mentioned that student is now in trouble with the law and could be facing up to 10 years in prison. Allen wants to know if students have been educated about sexting.
“I don’t know if parents, one, actually recognize that; two, if the kids actually recognize what is going on,” she said.
Allen said it would mean more to the students if law enforcement, not school administrators, spoke to them about sexting.
“I know with the sexting the highway patrol has a good program that they’ll do and will come talk to the kids,” Hazelett said.
At the beginning of the year Hazelett said students were using photo-messaging applications to take pictures. Students would take pictures of anybody at any time and make annotations to it. Then they would set the time of when the picture would be deleted, Hazelett said.
“We did have some conversations with all the kids to explain that while you think it’s gone, it may not be gone,” she said.
Hazelett also said she would look into having the highway patrol do the program.