Bullying: Defining the Problem

Bullying: Defining the Problem

Last year, 10 year-old  Cole Price was being bullied by a student in his class at Pine Grove; he says he was called “loser” and “fat” every day when he stepped on the school grounds. Cole explains, “You really can’t do anything because you’ll tell the teacher over and over, and they’ll do one thing that’s not very big and then it will just keep happening.”

His mother, Lisa Price, pulled him out of Pine Grove and started homeschooling him. She was frustrated by regular comments from other parents telling her “He needed to learn how to deal with it.” Lisa Price couldn’t believe their lack of support. “Why does someone need to learn how to deal with someone calling them a loser or fat?” she asked, “It needs to stop.”

Here in Del Norte, most people agree that bullying is a problem in schools. But there is less agreement on the exact nature of the problem and how serious of an issue it is. A group of youth research assistants working for the California Center for Rural Policy (CCRP) want to shed light on the problem of bullying in Del Norte. They have created a survey, targeting students from 3rd to 12th grade, that is now in the final stages of development.

Manuel Herrera, one of the young people working on the survey for CCRP, explained, “We just want to know how big [the problem] is.”

The questions deal with different kinds of bullying, including forms of it that we don’t know as much about such as bullying from teachers. The survey will “ask if a teacher has ever made [students] feel small or ever made a joke at their expense. If they say no to that, then they will skip that whole bracket” and move onto a new section.

During a dedicated meeting on bullying in Del Norte schools, administrators realized they needed to get more information, including the level of bullying present in the county.

They approached CCRP with the idea of a survey. The youth on the CCRP team decided to partner with Building Healthy Communities (BHC) to fund it. The hope is that the survey being created by CCRP will provide the schools and the community with the information they need to alleviate the problem.

Superintendent Don Olson said in an interview with the Redwood Voice, “Bullying means so many things to so many people, so let’s take it apart and really look at what we need to target.”

There are already some programs currently in place to address bullying and other behavioral issues, Olson said. One such program, Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support (PBIS) has been introduced in all K-8 schools as well as Sunset. Del Norte High School is trying another approached called “Restorative Justice,” which allows youth to focus on the needs of the victims and the offenders, who are encouraged to take responsibility for what they’ve done.

Olson said that during the academic year of 2012-2013, the rate of suspensions in California was 6% while Del Norte was double that at 12%.

“The old style was to find out who did it and send them home or punish them, and they never came together to try to resolve whatever that behavior was,” Olson said. “Suspension absolutely doesn’t work [at curbing behavioral issues]. If it did, every kid would only have one suspension.”

The bullying survey will come out by the end of the 2013-2014 academic year. Look for the survey soon, because this is a chance for the students of Del Norte to speak up about their experiences with bullying.

By Paul George