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How area Independent School Districts address bullying

Counselors with Hereford ISD share how the district has implemented new programs to deal with potential reported bullying cases (Drew Powell ABC 7 News)

Bullying is a problem that requires school districts to have policies in place to help protect a student or students who are prone to a bully. In the last 10 years the problem of students being bullied has gained more attention. According to the American Psychological Association more than 40 percent of school age children experience bullying at some point.

To help students report bullying, the Amarillo Independent School District implemented measures on its campuses that help ensure privacy when someone comes forward to report a possible case.

“We have a bully box or a bully locker on our campuses,” said Tracey Morman, director of Guidance & Counseling for AISD. “It’s a way for students to report that type of thing. We also have an online bullying form that either students or parents can fill out on our main AISD web page.”

AISD investigates every complaint that comes forward from a parent or a student.

“We always start with, okay, a parent has made a complaint that a bullying situation is going on or is going to happen,” said Moorman. “We follow the same protocol every time and, of course, at the end of the investigation we can then make a final determination: yes, it was bullying or no, it wasn’t.”

At Hereford ISD the district uses different programs to deal with bullying. At the beginning of the school year Hereford High School started participating in “Teen Truth & Rising Up Coaching” it sets forth a strategy to be pro-active.

“It has opened up connections between the peer leaders and the counselors where we have learned about things we may not have learned about,” said Kelli Boydstun, Hereford H.S. counselor.

For grades Pre-K – seven Hereford ISD uses the Olweus Bullying Prevention program. The long term system wide program for change involving components has helped schools and the district improve the handling of reported cases of bullying.

“We do have bullying situations in our schools,” said Kelly Kelso, Hereford ISD Elementary counselor. “It’s not a lot of the physical bullying. It’s more of the rumor spreading and indirect bullying. We do have some bullying but were able to handle it.”

Parents Janella Prather and Ashlyn Major each have a child who they believe is the victim of bullying. Prather, tells ABC 7 News the problems with her son escalated so much she had to take him to the hospital.

“My son, we’ve had to seek medical treatment for him due to injuries that he has received at school,” said Janella Prather, parent. “We keep getting the same response and keep getting this ‘we can’t do anything’ attitude from the school.”

Ashlyn Majors tells ABC 7 News her son’s first year attending a public school in the Texas Panhandle has not been the experience they were hoping for. She tells ABC 7 News her son has had problems with fellow students.

“He has long hair,” said Ashlyn Majors, parent “He’s had people pull on his hair and tease him about looking like a girl. One day he was held down by one boy while another boy beat on him. He’s regularly cussed at and called foul names.”

Both of these cases were investigated by their school districts and the parents had mixed reactions to the end result.

“The staff seems really supportive, like they do everything they can,” said Majors. “They try to make it a good environment but the culture of kids seems really hard to change.”

“We feel like it should not be this hard to keep our kids safe at school,” said Prather. “I feel like they should make it to where all kids are held accountable at all ages and not just third grade.”

Educators tell ABC 7 News that too often cases of bullying that are reported do not meet the guidelines of actual bullying. Parents and students who come forward with a complaint need to make sure the incident had the effect of physical harm or damaging personal property or being placed in reasonable fear of harm to the student.

“I think part of the problem with bullying is that the community has it what they think is bullying and that it always isn’t bullying,” said Bena Glassock, Hereford ISD counselor. “It has to be repeated. It has to be on purpose. It has to have something to do with an imbalance of power whether its size or whether its popularity.

For every ten or more cases of reported bullying only one to two turn out to meet the qualifications of actual bullying. All 50 states have an anti-bullying law which helps let aggressors known that the bullying will not be tolerated if its reported.

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