Bullying issues should be taken more seriously

Even with the emphasis of no bullying policies in schools, bullying still is an active problem at East and remains inadequately addressed by school officials. In my personal experience, an instance of bullying had gotten to the point that I no longer enjoyed doing an activity that I previously loved.

The worst part about this experience for me was not necessarily the lack of action by anyone in this situation, but the realization that I was assuredly not the only one that had gone through this before. After the fact, I heard many accounts from both my friends and other students about similar incidents of bullying and how they had tried to fix the situation by speaking to their teachers and the school administrators, to no avail.

While it is understandable that there is not much that can be done about bullying that does not occur physically, it is not fair to the individual being bullied to have nothing be done. Even though in these situations it is mostly a “he said, she said” scenario, that does not excuse the ineffective action taken by administrators or teachers.

In my experience, what the school officials had done was call me in and hear my account of the events that had occurred. At the end of this meeting, I was simply told that they would keep an eye on the situation but that there would be no further action taken.

The Bellevue Public Schools Student and Family Handbook states that “the school will ensure that students are provided appropriate interventions that support the safety and wellbeing of all students.” If this is true, then there should not be any cases of bullying with lack of effective action from administrators in our school and there should not be any instances of students feeling unsafe in their environment to the level that they do not want to come to school or they do not want to stay in activities.

Nebraska state law requires that each school district have a policy on bullying, but even with that, they do not require that districts train the staff and administrators on how to handle the bullying that may occur. I believe the problem with this lack of training is that it creates lack of action because the administrators or staff may not know the best way to handle situations as they arise within their schools.

When specifically looking at the Bellevue School Board policy for bullying, it simply defines bullying as an “ongoing pattern of physical, verbal (spoken or written), or electronic abuse.” The policy then goes on to list the punishments students may face for bullying (including suspension or expulsion) and states that the superintendent is in charge of instituting any programs that would educate students on bullying prevention. The policy itself has no specific guidelines for how the district or each school should handle cases of bullying.

According to Dean Mary Trowbridge, the standard procedure at East begins with identifying whether or not the case is actually bullying meaning that they have to be able to show that it is repeated and not just an isolated case. If the case does end up being bullying, then they interview both of the students to figure out the situation. She stated that they first tell the bully to stop and if that does not work they have all parties sign a non-harassment agreement. Finally, if that does not stop the bullying then the deans go on to look at suspension or expulsion for the offending student.

While this is the standard procedure when handling bullying, I believe that it is not enough when dealing with student’s safety and well-being at school. There needs to be more of a follow up to make sure the bullying actually stops, which could include having a follow up interview with the student weeks later to make sure that they feel safe and comfortable in their school environment.

According to Sheri Bauman, a member of the Department of Educational Psychology with the University of Arizona states that after her research, it had been concluded that no-tolerance policies for bullying are not as effective as just implementing prevention techniques. These techniques could include just giving further education to students regarding the long-term effects of bullying.

Without following up on cases of bullying, some students may continue to feel unsafe and unwelcome in their classes and extracurricular activities. According to StopBullying.gov, students that are bullied can experience depression and anxiety and also have a decreased academic performance and school participation. If bullying remains treated with ineffective action in schools, then students will continue to experience all of these effects.

While our district does have a no-bullying policy, I feel the administration needs to find a way to keep it better enforced. In a time where #BeKind is taught and encouraged, it is also the right time to take bullying in our school more seriously and not only begin to take disciplinary actions when it progresses to physical altercations.