The Times West Virginian

August 4, 2013

What’s best step to prevent bullying?

Times West Virginian

— 6,313.

That’s the number of students in the West Virginia school system who were disciplined for bullying, harassment or intimidation for the 2011-12 school year.

That’s the number of cases that went through the proper channels and ended with a disciplinary action. That doesn’t count the incidents not reported. That doesn’t count the students who suffer in silence or don’t feel like an incident is worth reporting.

And not surprisingly, the majority of incidents happened in middle schools statewide. According to the report, presented to the state school board late last month, 26 percent of incidents happened in high schools, 18 percent in elementary schools and the remaining incidents in middle schools/junior highs.

“The middle schools, that’s where it occurs,” state schools Superintendent Jim Phares said following the presentation of the report to the joint committee on education. “Part of it is the growth and lack of maturity of the students.”

The report says that bullying can be prevented by improving “overall conditions for learning.”

Since bullying accounts for only about 3 percent of infractions statewide, the theory is that if you create an environment where misbehavior and disobedience are not acceptable or tolerated, the number of cases of bullying will decline. The report also said that assemblies and single class lessons devoted to bullying are not very effective. The report also calls for extra training for teachers and administrators so they feel more capable to handle a bullying incident as well as promoting positive behavior in the classrooms and in the hallways. The final recommendation highlighted in the report is making sure that kids are serving suspensions in school so those children are “not deprived of needed supports.”

It’s a tough issue to deal with. On one hand, you know the behavior is very age-related, but on the other hand, no child should have to suffer through teasing, torment, fear and physical attacks. So what do you do?

We took the question to our faithful online readers, who log on each week to to answer our weekly online poll question. Last week we asked, “A recent study found that about half of the state’s bullying issues are happening on the middle school level. What do you think would help the most?”

And here’s what you had to say:

• More and better training for teachers and administrators — 9.76 percent.

• More focus on the issue and not just an assembly here and there — 15.85 percent.

• Not much ... It’s just an age thing that most kids grow out of — 19.51 percent.

• Consistent discipline and constant education — 54.88 percent.

No matter what, we can’t give up on our kids. Those who are hurting and in pain hurt others. Those who have been hurt by bullying carry around scars forever.

This week, let’s talk about the complex issue of the death penalty as some high-profile cases have brought the controversial issue back into the public dialogue. Where do you stand? Log on. Vote. Email me or respond online.

Misty Poe

Managing Editor