Bullying Should Be Addressed In Proper Steps
Arguably most of us have dealt with bullying at some point when we were younger.
In fact, according to stopbullying.gov, between one in four and one in three U.S. students say they have been bullied at school.
Interestingly, the site states that only about 20 percent to 30 percent of students who are bullied notify adults about the bullying. Furthermore, when bystanders intervene, bullying is stopped within 10 seconds, 57 percent of the time.
The numbers likely hold true for Wetzel County as well.
On a local level, Wetzel County Superintendent Dennis J. Albright states that often parents skip the most important step: talking to the principal. “People will call here and file a safe schools’ report, and there are many cases (of bullying) that the school has never heard of.”
“We’ve had instances where parents have come to myself and Mr. (Attendance Director/Student Services Todd) Barcus and the principal didn’t know anything about it.” Albright says protocol should always be taken. “You don’t call the board. You go to the teacher.” If the teacher does not help, Albright states, “you go to the school principal.” If they fail to help, Albright suggests that then the parent should, “Come to the central office.”
“There’s not anyone here that’s not willing to help,” he states. “If they don’t feel the school principal is doing enough, they need to let us know.”
Albright says one important step is figuring out whether or not the bullying is bullying, harassment, or “normal kid behavior.”
“Kids are kids,” he stated.
“And when asked if he believes people are too quick to cry, “bully,” Albright appears to agree. “I think as a society we probably do jump to conclusions,” he stated. “Kids will be kids.”
“I was not a perfect child at school,” he noted. “I will admit to that. I think it made me a better teacher.” Albright added that he warned his students they could not get away with bad behavior, seeing as he, himself, was once in their shoes.
“I think to be legitimate bullying, you have to distinguish between a serious offense and kids being kids . . . They do things they later regret. Sometimes we jump to conclusions and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes it’s a major issue and it’s gotten too far. Everyone gets teased, and then you start to hurt peoples’ feelings. If it isn’t expressed, you don’t know if it has hurt someone’s feelings.”
However, he stresses, “All schools take (reports of bullying) very seriously. They are going to investigate; they have procedures. There are multiple sides to stories, but when you talk to the kids involved, you get different stories. The staff keeps an eye on it though, so it doesn’t materialize into something more serious.”
Albright says many times there are concerns from parents “because we can’t share results of these things.” “I can’t talk to anyone about anything.”
“If someone reports an employee, you can’t tell what you did to them. The only way you’ll know, is if there is a board action. If I reprimand someone, no one can know. When someone says something in one room, that should be kept in that room.
Albright stated he reiterates this to parents, asking them if they would want others to know how their child is disciplined.
“Just because your child is involved, it doesn’t mean we can tell you what happened to that child.”
Albright states that he tells the parents he will handle the situation and urges them that if they have any more issues, to contact him. “Most people handle that fairly well,” he states.
Albright says the consequences of bullying are pretty wide open. “You have to consider severity and past history,” he states.
Separate Wetzel County Schools also have strategies to combat bullying. “Magnolia has an anti-bullying club,” Albright states, adding “a lot of elementary schools have what they call ‘Lunch Bunch,’ and bullying may be something they talk about . . . I’ve been to schools where families are going through home situations, so you have kids come in and talk to counselors at lunch time, and it’s good to share with kids having the same issues as you are.”
“The one thing that gets worse now, is the fact of technology and texting and different things like that,” Albright noted. “There are things I never dealt with as a kid-no social media. We didn’t have cell phones, but that compounds the problem now. People say things that they would never say to somebody’s face, and a lot of people think that they are doing that under a cloud of anonymity.”
In conclusion, bullying “is an issue everywhere,” Albright noted.
“My opinion is it’s not out of control. It is is underreported, then it needs to be reported. What is working it’s way up to us, is not a huge out-of-control type of of situation.” He added, “Every issue we take seriously. If you are talking about a child, it’s a serious issue. No child should ever feel that they shouldn’t go to school. We want school to be a safe and happy place for kids.”