Summit addresses bullying in schools
Washington Schools Superintendent Mike Jorgensen said today that school district representatives from the guidance and transportation departments Tuesday attended Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad’s Bullying Prevention Summit in Des Moines.
While Jorgensen hasn’t spoken with the people who attended the sold-out conference, he said that the lessons passed on during the summit would be further discussed and implemented during administrative meetings. He said that the district had updated its bullying policy last year.
“It’s an ongoing topic of discussion,” Jorgensen said. “We have worked to make sure we include bullying lessons as part of our regular guidance curriculum in the elementary schools. Our principals are constantly updating building policies and addressing those issues. We started the online bully reporting system about a year ago. It is an issue that is constantly being addressed.”
According to the 2010 Iowa Youth Surveys, about half of students surveyed indicated they had been bullied at some point and most had witnessed bullying happening.
Jorgensen said that bullying is a problem in the district, as it is everywhere. He said that every district has issues of bullying. He also said over the last 10 years there has been a rise in awareness in the problem.
In cases that are reported, Jorgensen said, there have been cases where the incident is not legitimate. He explained that because two people don’t get along, it doesn’t constitute bullying. He also said there have been incidents where the person who reported bullying had initiated the conflict.
“You would be amazed how many times the situations involve a boyfriend-girlfriend situation,” he said. “When you have someone who is deliberately being targeted, picked on and called names by someone who believes they are superior, that is a bully situation.”
He said that sometimes bully situations involve older kids picking on younger kids. Jorgensen also said that he is surprised that there are many cases when the bullies are middle-school age girls.
In cases when bullying is reported, there is always an investigation. Jorgensen said the schools’ closed circuit cameras could help determine if an incident occurred. He said the alleged bully, as well as any witnesses, are interviewed.
Cyber bullying is another problem the school is dealing with. Jorgensen said that because many times the incidents don’t happen on campus, the police are involved.
“We are a little limited in how we can address some electronic bullying,” Jorgensen said. “When it happens off campus our hands are a little tied.”
Jorgensen said the reason transportation director Woody Hardin attended the summit is because many times bullying situations happen on buses.
He said the district is also addressing the idea of a teacher or coach being a bully. He said that there have been instances in other districts where he has seen teachers act in a manner that would be considered bullying and unacceptable. He said that the administration watches the faculty closely to ensure that no incidents occur. He also said the administration addresses what is acceptable and unacceptable with teachers and coaches.
The school district has already instituted the Character Counts programs to provide good role models for students and display good behavior. Jorgensen said that he believes the district has made significant strides over the past several years in combating bullying.
“Are we ever going to get to a point where it is totally gone?” he said. “I don’t believe anyone will ever get to that point. I think we have raised awareness in kids. The kids are handling it better in terms of coming to adults and letting adults address it.”