Anti-bullying themes play out serious lessons at school
By Dave Fidlin
Instances of bullying are occasionally reported in the Waterford Graded School District, but school officials here say they have found that the number of incidents has been in decline thus far in the 2012-13 school year.
Still, keeping those numbers down requires both persistence and vigilance.
This month, an anti-bullying initiative is being observed at all four district schools (see box, below).
The January activities represent the latest program taking place in the schools to increase awareness of bullying and teach strategies on how to reduce it.
Earlier in the school year, during a discussion of district data, the WGSD School Board and administrators discussed cases of bullying during a fall Policy and Curriculum Committee meeting.
Among the three categorical types of bullying – cyber, physical and verbal – administrators say verbal is the most prevalent. Also, the data reveals that instances of bullying rise from one grade level to the next, peaking at the middle school grades.
More recently, districts across Wisconsin are required to document instances of bullying and provide an annual report to the state.
“This is a starting spot for us,” Superintendent Chris Joch said of the data being compiled and shared routinely with the board.
School Board President Dan Jensen said he would like as much clarity as possible in defining what does and does not constitute bullying.
“The point is we have to equip adults and our staff,” Jensen said. “There needs to be something for people to respond to when they see something, so we can talk to parents.”
During the board’s discussion with administrators, the topic of classroom disruption also arose.
Building principals report that most instances of bullying take place during lunch – on the playground in the elementary grades and in-between classes in the middle school grades.
Actual classroom disruptions are infrequent, according to the principals.
Darlene Markle, principal of Fox River Middle School, said there has been a heightened emphasis in recent years on educating students about the hazards of bullying. In all schools, students are encouraged to report instances of bullying anonymously.
“I think there’s been a real conscious awareness of what we’re doing,” Markle said. “I’m really impressed.”
Waterford Graded has had some form of bullying policy on its books since the 2006-07 school year. Since then, several updates have been made.
Waterford Graded defines bullying as being unfair and one-sided. It happens when someone repeatedly hurts, frightens, threatens or leaves someone out on purpose, Joch explained.
The four steps students are taught to use to address bullying are to: Recognize, Stop, Walk and Tell a Trusted Adult.