I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Is there an Epidemic of Bullying, Violence in our Schools?

In the lead up to the vote on the Newpoint closure, I received numerous emails, phone-calls, and other correspondence about that school.

But one recurring theme, particularly from the students who contacted me, was an intense fear, a worry over being bullied in traditional schools if Newpoint closed.

Bullying is a huge problem nationwide, with students around the country being subjected to a non-stop barrage in person, over the internet, and on social media.  Sadly—often these students end up depressed and they hurt themselves or become bullies themselves.

Bullying, harassment, abusive and oftentimes violent behavior is common at our traditional district schools too—according to many who wanted us to keep Newpoint open and also according to the frequent, almost semi- regular complaints I receive from parents whose students attend our traditional schools and are aware of these same issues.

I also read about the bullying that is a hallmark of the infractions committed by those students who end up on our "disciplinary reassignment" lists monthly....

Something has to change, we have got to get this dysfunctional violent and abusive behavior under control, no matter what. I don't think Kohlberg or Flip Flippen programs are fixing this huge problem.

 I brought the idea of mandatory student climate surveys—a method that has been successful at countering violence in other schools---where students can confidentially report bullying and force district staff into action.  I’m aggressively staying on this; I’m told staff is pursuing it

One parent at the Newpoint meeting stated her daughter was harassed and bullied so badly at Workman MS that she pulled her child out.  “One student was beaten down, his nose broken and his leg broken” was a claim made by this parent.  “Nobody investigated and the students who did it were not punished—nobody would listen and everybody at that school ignored the problem!”  (at that point in the meeting I interjected that I wanted to talk with her, I would follow up, I would not ignore her.  She and I have talked and emailed back and forth since the meeting)

One young student recently wrote this to me

“i want to keep this school open because it makes me feel very safe it's the only school that takes care of bullies really quick so please keep the school open”

Another wrote:

“dear school board members this school gives us great education.those other thing about alcohol and stuff were also at other schools like at ransoms dance. They listen to our ideas and we can work at our own pace. Some people come here to get away from bullying and if you take that away people will get bullied again like some people I know.”

Another wrote:

“I have a lot to gamble with the new school stuff we all go through, I went to Woodham Middle School and I was sadly bullied. I found Newpoint, I am no longer bullied”
A parent wrote:

“My name is XXXXXXXXXX and my son's name is XXXXXXXXXXX. He is a XXXXXXXXXXXX. XXXXX attended Holm Elementary for his entire elementary education. His grades were good until about fourth grade. He was being verbally bullied by his classmates. His teachers did what they could to stop it, but the bullying continued. By sixth grade, I put him in karate classes hoping to give him some self defense skills and boost his self esteem. Unfortunately, this did not work. During his sixth grade year, the verbal bullying escalated to physical bullying. XXXXXXXX was attacked more than once at school. He was so stressed about going to school that despite walking to and from school, taking p.e. everyday, and karate class twice a week, he gained over 20 lbs that year. Seventh grade did not improve either, I ended up taking legal action against another student who was caught attacking XXXXXXX. I was on the verge of putting him in counseling because he was becoming so depressed and withdrawn”

Another parent wrote:

“I live close enough to Bailey Middle School to see it from my house. But after the actions of their faculty and staff, it is more than worth it to commute [our daughter] to a school that is over thirty minutes away! Last year she was bullied by students AND a faculty member, who and I quote was heard by my daughter and two of her classmates as saying "Its not my fault you had a migraine and could not be here yesterday, you will get what you deserve, a zero..." myself, my wife, daughter and her two classmates approached the Principal with this information that same day we were told she would deal with it, when in fact we were later told by a fellow teacher (who is our neighbor) that the bulling teacher and the Principal both "Had a good laugh over it." When my wife and I approached the dean, we were told that kids would be kids and unless we had any other options we would be out of there and on to Escambia High the following year. Well, we weren't. And in fact, my daughter fell into a depression that not even the mental health professionals could rationalize. They continually told my daughter "I'm sorry for the way you were treated by people who were supposed to protect you."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Because traditional school is not a real community. :-)