Vivian Geilim Opinion Editor
Brian Harward Staff Writer
District stalls on updated bullying code, awaits new information
Nearly three months after after the board’s discussion of bullying, there have been no changes to the district’s policy against bullying.
During the Aug. 22 board meeting, board member Noah Margo said that he felt the district was not tough enough on bullying.
“I feel that we turn a blind eye to bullying in this district,” Margo said. “In what I’ve seen and what I’ve experienced, it’s downplayed, it’s not dealt with.”
Since then, administration has been working on strengthening the rules against bullying. Superintendent Michael Bregy says that the administration is waiting on new information to update the code [page 32] that punishes bullying.
“We actually haven’t made any changes to it yet because we wanted to look at what’s actually happening in our schools; before we change the policy we want to know the need that there is in our district,” Bregy said.
The district found that the each schools in the district looked at bullying differently, leading to possible inconsistencies in bullying statistics. At the high school, there are also different procedures of penalizing students for bullying.
“The Department of Education code says that if you are bullying you can be suspended from school. There’s also a wide variety of consequences that could come from bullying from, ‘Don’t do it again,’ to detention to other things,” Assistant principal Christopher Regan said. “Something that happened once may not get a suspension. It’s never a black and white, it’s always gray.”
According to the code, bullying means, “any severe or pervasive physical or verbal act or conduct, including communications made in writing or by means of an electronic act, and including one or more acts committed by a pupil or group of pupils.” While the wording of the bullying code is the same for all five schools, Bregy says that each school interprets it differently.
“We discovered that we have to keep track of every student incident that is brought to the attention of administration,” Bregy said. “We found that each school had their own definition of bullying, and that the reporting of bullying was inaccurate and so was the way that the district looks at what bullying is.”
At the high school, Regan is very meticulous about how to undergo a bullying claim. He describes the questions asked that follow after one reports an incident of bullying in attempt to understand the situation at hand.
“We start with the accuser and get as much information as we can. Who’s doing it? When are they doing it? Where are they doing it? Were there other people around to see them do it?…We try to talk to the person being bullied as much as we can. Then we talk to any witnesses who have been mentioned, or who might have seen it…We talk to really anyone who was involved and we get as big of a picture as we can of what the situation is. Then we would talk to the accused bully and make a decision on the consequences that may or may not occur,” Regan said.
To avoid different interpretations of the code, Bregy has begun working with staff in the different school buildings with the long-term goal of consolidating all the different bullying policies into one big anti-bullying program.
“Now we are working with our principals and staffs to determine what bullying is and how to punish it, and how to investigate it and what type of education we give to stop it,” Bregy said. “At the end of the day, we want to be able to have a district wide anti-bullying program, which we don’t have right now.”
Student Board Member Jonathan Artal agrees that the district has been trying to strengthen its position on the topic of bullying. He also pointed out that ASB has begun to focus on bullying through its school events such as the gender-neutral homecoming.
“I think that the administration and district are definitely focusing on bullying and the student experience in the district,” Artal said. “One thing we’ve tried to do this year in ASB is to make the school as inclusive and diverse as possible.”
Cyberbullying, stemming from the advent of social media, has become much more pervasive in society in the past years. Cyberbullying, however, is only briefly mentioned in the current policy, and is hard to protect against because it may happen off the school campus.
“If cyberbullying happens off school property, and isn’t using a district computer or something, the time the school can get involved is if there’s ever a time when something happening on social media has to do with the educational environment being disrupted,” Bregy said.
Because cyberbullying is fundamentally interacting through the media, it can be easily manipulated (deleted, fabricated, etc.). Thus, it draws a “gray line” in school interaction and disciplining student cyber bullies.
“[Disciplining cyberbullying] depends on the evidence that we have. If there are inappropriate snapchats sent and that is reported but there’s no copy of the snapchat, we really don’t have any proof that something has happened. We can talk to them, but we don’t really have concrete evidence. Texts or Instagram DMs or saved snapchats, however, are a different story, because we have that evidence,” Regan said.
The current policy, while following the Department of Education guidelines on bullying, has been left open to interpretation for years, meaning site administration is not unified in how it punishes bullying. This disunification has been pushed onto the students, some of whom say they didn’t even know a policy was in place to discipline bullying.
“I really had no idea that there is a bullying policy at Beverly,” senior Sophia Martin said. “I think the bullying policy should have a stronger impact on students. Bullying shouldn’t be tolerated at Beverly.”
Catherine Gagulashvili Calendar Manager
Anti-bullying efforts disappoint, fail to reach goals
A boy sitting in the front row raises his hand and speaks much too quickly, answering the teacher’s question perfectly. Other kids snicker. Out of anger, a girl snaps at another whom she views as her subordinate, telling her to “fix” her eyebrows. A boy in the back row is too loud and brings attention to his over-excited demeanor. The kids around him laugh because he’s different. A girl walking down the hall notices a boy imitating her clumsy walk. Little does he know, she walks in an awkward manner because of a disability.
Bullying, a prevalent issue occurring on most high school campuses across the country, is not properly addressed by lawmakers, school boards and administrators. Schools attempt to root out all cases of bullying by using passive means of bullying prevention. These, in the long-run, are not helping students learn how to deal with and put an end to bullying.
The efforts to end bullying have been limited to hanging banners, administering assemblies, encouraging bystanders to speak up when witnessing bullying and generally telling students “not to bully.” These efforts, while crucial in the rooting out of the bullying epidemic, do virtually nothing to help students learn how to defend themselves and how to address issues head on.
Twenty-eight percent of students ranging from sixth to 12th grade in the US have been bullied, whereas 51.2 percent of 164 surveyed students at Beverly have been bullied in one form or another. The California Department of Education (CDE) focuses on making peers aware of how to recognize and intercede when witnessing another being bullied by addressing the problem from an uninvolved standpoint. The CDE states that the key elements of bullying prevention include raising awareness through role playing events at assemblies, forming an anti-bullying committee at schools and providing counseling for bullies, bullied students and their parents/guardians. They aim to educate teachers on how to address and intervene when suspecting bullied students in their classroom. Nowhere, however, does the CDE address the necessary, yet overlooked education needed by bullied students. Too often do students lack the ability to stand up for themselves and eventually lose the ability to even do what schools teach them to do: speak to an authority.
Beverly has recently been attempting to mitigate bullying on campus by having designated months in which Norman Aid attempts to make students more aware of what’s going on in the world around them. There was Suicide Prevention September, Opt-Out October and it is currently Network and Internet Safety November. The Theatre Arts Department also performed the play, “Stop Bullying.” The general idea behind all of these anti-bullying efforts is to have students realize the effects of bullying both on and off campus.
Tactics such as imploring students to “opt-out” from situations in which they feel pressured by peers to do something they should not can encourage students to take a stance behind anti-bullying efforts. But, ultimately, these are soft tactics that will not, in a fundamental way, make a difference in eliminating bullying. As an anonymous student put it, “Many faculty members take bullying at BHHS very seriously…however, I feel as if the ‘no tolerance’ policy is not prominent enough in the students’ daily lives, as teachers seldom discuss bullying, nor do we have assemblies regarding it.”
In order to effectively stop bullying, the society and educators need to concentrate on educating prospective victims of bullying. Children from an early age need to be taught how to stand up to bullies, how to learn to defend themselves rather than passively complain to teachers about being bullied. Teachers can’t offer full-proof protection from bullies; only those who are targeted can do it themselves. Both parents and teachers can teach their children how to stand up to bullies by using seven steps discussed in Psychology Today. By utilizing steps in which children are raised to stand up for themselves and those around them, society can proceed to eradicate bullying.
In order for anti-bullying efforts to succeed, schools and teachers need to expand the breadth and width of education, empowering children to stand up to bullies and delivering the anti-bullying message in a language young kids can understand.
Rinesa Kabashi Photo Editor