When bullying happens at local schools, the confrontations most often are verbal and happen among students in fifth through eighth grade, according to a new state report.
The new report by the Indiana Department of Education is intended to document all bullying reported at all public schools during the 2013-14 school year. Ideally, school districts can use the reports to see and stop bullying trends at their elementary, intermediate, middle and high schools, though not all of the information in the report is accurate.
Greenwood and other public school districts that submitted reports to the state weren’t included, and numbers listed for Northwood Elementary School in Franklin and East Side Elementary in Edinburgh were incorrect, school officials said.
The state plans to review and correct any errors with the report over the next few weeks, spokesman Daniel Altman said.
School officials also questioned whether all of the bullying incidents in the state actually were reported. Multiple schools in the report including, Jimtown Intermediate in Elkhart, which has more than 600 students, and Avon Middle School North, which has 700 students, reported that no bullying of any kind occurred last school year.
“When you have zero in very large schools, it makes you wonder: Is the definition (of bullying) applied differently?” Clark-Pleasant director of curriculum and instruction Cameron Rains said.
Accurate reports could be valuable to schools since they would show teachers and principals any bullying trends that need to be stopped, administrators said. The state considers any unwanted acts or gestures that are purposeful and repeated to be bullying. Bullying can be verbal, physical, something written in a note or sent electronically, a rumor that’s spread among a group of people or some combination of all of these.
“For us, it’s as much about making sure that we permanently resolve any issues as it is reporting it to the state,” Rains said.
Most local school districts already kept records of student bullying, but last school year was the first time schools were required to report their numbers to the state. Those numbers were then compiled into a report that breaks down the verbal, physical, written, social and combined incidents, and those numbers will be tracked each school year.
School officials weren’t surprised that most of the bullying incidents were reported at the intermediate and middle schools. This is the time when students are transitioning to new schools and learning to get along with different groups of students, and sometimes that can breed tension, they said.
“When you think about it, it makes sense,” Franklin Superintendent David Clendening said.
If future reports show bullying remains a problem at the intermediate and middle schools, then teachers and counselors at those schools can start having more conversations about the importance of students having healthy relationships with their classmates and also ensuring students know what kinds of verbal or physical abuse won’t be accepted, administrators said.
“I think we all agree that bullying behaviors escalate and cause harm,” Clendening said. “So it does help us.”