It would be interesting to hear what the students have to say about bullying in schools like Gates Chili and Irondequoit high schools. According to administrators, it isn’t happening there.
There was not a single incident of bullying, harassment or discrimination reported during the 2015-16 school year, which is the most recent data available. No problems in the classrooms, hallways, locker rooms, lunch rooms, buses or even online. Officials at 68 other schools in Monroe County also reported zero incidents that year.
At the risk of sounding like a bully, we think that is hogwash.
“From what we know from multiple studies,” Amanda Nickerson, director of the Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention at the University of Buffalo says, “it is nearly impossible for a school to have no incidents in an entire school year.”
Let alone 70 schools in one county.
Bullying is one of the most serious issues our children face, and our schools need to vigilantly measure and respond to it.
It has been more than five years since New York state started requiring school districts to keep track of these incidents. It is part of a larger effort, called the Dignity for All Students Act, to make sure all kids feel safe and supported in school. When they don’t, it can be much harder to learn. Bullied or harassed students are also more likely to miss school, engage in risky behavior, and experience depression. Bullying has been blamed for numerous tragic deaths, including that of a 12-year-old East Rochester girl who died by suicide two years ago.
And, there is even more at stake than the well-being of students now that there is a law holding school districts accountable. The East Rochester school district remains embroiled in a lawsuit filed by the young girl’s parents. And, last week, a Sullivan County district was ordered to pay $1 million to a middle school student after his family convinced a civil court judge that his school did not do enough comply with the Dignity for All Students Act.
New York state has worked to make it easier to report incidents, and those changes went into effect this year. Perhaps, that will help.
But, a recent audit from the state Comptroller’s office indicates a significant need for enhanced training for schools on identifying and reporting incidents, and maintaining accurate and timely records. The state Education Department agrees with these findings and has begun that work. Schools, some more than others, need to take this training with a far greater degree of seriousness than they have been.