August 29, 2014 at 6:55 pm

Allegany-Limestone takes next steps to eliminate bullying

ALLEGANY — In the past, students at Allegany-Limestone Elementary School have participated in assemblies that addressed bullying through role playing, wore anti-bullying T-shirts en masse and even met a former beauty queen who had been a victim of bullying.

This year the campus has taken measures a step further by implementing the Olweus (pronounced Ol-vay-us) bullying prevention program. Teachers and staff have been trained in the program to help students acknowledge and address bullying that occurs in the classroom, school grounds and buses.

Ted Costa, guidance counselor at the school, said the program will not only address bullying on campus, but can also help adults address the issue with children in the community.

“We started slowly; this has been a four-year process,” Mr. Costa said of the school’s anti-bullying program. “We got a group of people and teachers together to talk about what we could do; we culminated it midway through last year by purchasing the Olweus program.”

The research-based program, created by Dan Olweus, has been in existence in Norway since the 1970s and is now used in school districts throughout the United States.

Mr. Costa said the school has a bullying-prevention coordinating committee consisting of himself, a teacher at each grade level, Principal Dave Taylor, a couple of teacher aides, a cafeteria aide and music and art teachers.

“We were trained first (in Olweus), and we, in turn, trained the rest of the teachers and staff,” he said.

The school also conducted a survey with students in third through fifth grade last year to obtain their opinions regarding bullying on campus.

“We were at or below the national average in the bullying category,” he stated. “Some (categories) we were well below, and some we were right at the national average.

“Obviously our goal is to be well below the national average in everything.”

He said the immediate goal this year will be to teach students what bullying is, as well as the four anti-bullying rules. The rules are:

 

We will not bully others.

We will try to help those who are being bullied.

We will include others who are left out.

If we know that someone is being bullied, we will tell an adult at the program and an adult at home.

The school will hold short open sessions to explain the program to parents during Meet the Teachers night Sept. 10 in the multipurpose room. The program will also be presented to the students throughout the school year during one-hour class meetings each week, or more often as needed.

“Every teacher has class meeting times built into their schedules,” he continued. The meetings can be the result of reports of a particular student in the classroom bullying someone on a bus or in the school.

“The teacher, without pointing fingers at anyone, will bring it up in the class discussion,” Mr. Costa remarked. He said the teacher might tell the students, “I heard about a situation that happened on a bus, one child did this to another child, can we talk about that … who thinks that’s an OK thing to do?”

The teacher could then ask, “What could we do to help the child who was picking on the other child so he doesn’t do that again?”

Mr. Costa noted that a large component of Olweus is to enable the bystanders to take action.

“If somebody is bullying somebody and five or six kids say ‘Hey, what are you doing that for?’ then that kid is not going to repeat that behavior,” he said.

Mr. Costa and Mr. Taylor have provided booklets and compact discs on the program to the officials with the town of Allegany and the town of Carrollton and received a positive reaction. The purpose of this is for the program to be reinforced in recreation programs at the community level in activities such as soccer games and other events.

Mr. Taylor said the program is expected to help all staff on campus deal with bullying when it occurs.

“Every week (teachers) will discuss bullying issues, real situations kids are faced with and potential situations that may come up,” Mr. Taylor said. “This will give them information and ammunition to fight the bully fight.”

He said the program was well received by the staff, who appreciated having the guidelines and concepts to follow.

“There’s no magic formula; it takes a lot of hard work to raise awareness of bullying and train kids with the tools they need,” Mr. Taylor said.

(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at kates_th@ayahoo.com)

http://www.oleantimesherald.com/news/article_bb3b18ee-2f97-11e4-a585-0019bb2963f4.html

at 6:55 pm

PCM insurers settled 2013 bullying case out of court

MONROE — New information in a civil case filed last year against the Prairie City-Monroe School District and district Superintendent Jane Babcock shows district insurers agreed to a financial settlement with a former PCM family in exchange for dropping their complaint — a case which claimed PCM officials refused to take action when the plaintiffs’ 12-year-old son was allegedly bullied in a sexual manner by a fellow student.

Documents provided by the office of PCM’s attorney Patrick Smith show the district’s insurer agreed to a settlement in the amount of $100,000. In exchange for the financial settlement, the document dictates that the plaintiffs would agree to file a dismissal with prejudice and drop their demand for a jury trial. The motion was filed in Jasper County Civic Court in July.

The plaintiffs remained Jane/John Does and Son Doe in the civil suit but were named in the settlement document. The Newton Daily News is withholding the identities of the plantiffs to maintain privacy for the alleged minor victim.

In an interview Monday, Babcock said it was the district insurance company’s decision to settle the case out of court and reiterated that the settlement is not an admission of guilt or liability.

“At no time did the district believe we had any liabilities in this case,” Babcock said. “The insurance company decided to negotiate for the settlement published. There were no district funds involved in the settlement, and the district was not involved in the negotiations for the settlement. We believe we handled the alleged incident properly.”

In their original civil complaint filed in June 2013, the plaintiffs claim the PCM School District and Babcock took no action to protect their son from bullying and harassment during incidents which allegedly occurred while he was a student at PCM Middle School.

The plaintiffs claimed their then 12-year-old, seventh grade son was sexually harassed by a ninth grade student during and after wrestling practice in the PCM High School locker room showers. The 12-year-old claimed the sexually-explicit bullying extended to Facebook, including direct messages and other correspondence.

The plaintiffs alleged their son complained to Babcock and school board member Mitchell Chipps repeatedly between December 2011 and January 2012. The court petition and jury demand filed June 12, 2013, stated Babcock allegedly told the 12-year-old’s mother the incidents involving her son were not actionable and suggested she destroy the Facebook exchanges. The plaintiffs also claimed Chipps told Jane Doe the incidents were “not a big deal” and also suggested destroying the messages. The student’s parents argued the unnamed former ninth grader’s behavior violated PCM’s anti-harassment/bullying policy. The plaintiff’s son is no longer a student in the PCM school district.

In the settlement the plaintiffs agreed to release PCM, Babcock and the school board from future claims, demands and obligations regarding the alleged incident.

Contact Staff Writer Mike Mendenhall at mmendenhall@newtondailynews.com.

http://www.newtondailynews.com/2014/08/25/pcm-insurers-settled-2013-bullying-case-out-of-court/auqet1q/

at 6:55 pm

Which MCS school had the most bullying last year?

Last school year, Muncie Community Schools received 396 reports of bullying.

Bullying, clearly, is an issue here. It’s an issue at most schools in the state. In fact, Indiana ranks third in the nation when it comes to bullying in schools.

But does this local number reflect an issue that is out of control or a bullying plan — put into action last year — that is doing its job?

Chuck Hensley, who heads up security for the district, said once the plan was put into place, there were several reports coming in. But as the year progressed, he said, those numbers went down.

During the first quarter of the year, there were 171 reports. The second had 129, followed by 48 for both the third and fourth.

MCS Chief Academic Officer Ermalene Faulkner said the district has worked hard to create an environment where students feel comfortable reporting bullying.

The numbers, she says, reflect that.

Then there is the law that went into effect last year that requires, among other things, for everyone who works with students to report bullying, from bus drivers to cafeteria workers to volunteers.

“At MCS, we require everyone to report bullying immediately,” Faulkner noted. The numbers reflect that, too.

Wilson tops list

These detailed bullying reports — required by law — are broken into categories: verbal, physical, social (shunning) or relational (dating), written or electronic, and a combination of two or more. All reported incidents must be sent to the state.

A database of incidents at each school in the state was released over the summer by the Indiana Department of Education.

In all, there were 9,396 incidents reported. Forty-four percent were verbal incidents and 21 percent were physical. Other types of incidents, making up a smaller percentage, included written or electronic threats and social shunning at the lunch table or elsewhere.

At MCS, verbal incidents outweighed all other incidents at 238. There were 102 physical reports, followed by 53 combination, 32 written or electronic and 24 social or relational.

The school that had the most overall reported incidents was Wilson Middle School with 126. Eighty-seven of those were verbal; 29 were physical; nine were combination; seven were social/relational, and three written/electronic.

The highest number of physical incidents, 33, was at Grissom Elementary School. The highest number of verbal incidents was at Wilson. All of those students, it should be noted, are now at Southside Middle School. The Wilson building has closed.

All of these incidents, it should be noted, are reports. Not all were substantiated.

Bullies by law

The Centers for Disease Control, which ranked the state third after a survey, also found that 1 in 4 students had been bullied at school the previous year, that 1 in 5 students had been bullied electronically and that 1 in 20 felt the bullying was bad enough that they did not go to school for fear of safety at school or going to and from school.

Studies from the National School Safety Center reported that 60 percent of students who were identified as school bullies ended up with a criminal record by age 24.

During the 2013 legislative session, the General Assembly passed bully legislation (HEA 1423 and then P.L. 285-2013), the first state to do so.

This law changed the definition of bullying and established bullying prevention and intervention program requirements for the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) and school corporations.

We should point out here that the law states that bullying is overt and unwanted repeated acts, including verbal or written communications by phone or computer, that create a hostile school environment for targeted students that place them in reasonable fear of harm or affects their mental health or school performance.

The law requires all schools to keep track of bullying incidents; provide training to employees and volunteers; provide yearly instruction to students; have clear discipline rules in place for all types of bullying, and provide support services for both the bully and the victim.

By October of last year, all school districts were required to have a bullying plan in place.

At MCS, the principal at each school is responsible for implementing the anti-bullying plan. A “point person” — usually a counselor — has been designated by each principal. A verbal report is required right away, to the designated point person. A written report is then required within one school day.

All of the schools now have forms on file to report bullying. The district already had anonymous bullying boxes and a “tip line” available at 747-1632 and, now, an online portal.

Once a form is completed, an investigation — led by the principal — must be started within five days, and Hensley must receive a report within 10 days of the completed investigation.

Standing up

One part of the plan includes training — for students as well as any adult who comes in contact with a student. That training must be completed by October of each school year.

Most MCS schools, Faulkner said, have already had some “bullying discussions” and have more planned throughout the year.

East Washington Academy has designated every Wednesday as “We Care Wednesday” when students and faculty are encouraged to wear anti-bully shirts.

Central High School, according to Associate Principal Gerry Moore, will be showing a film about bullying this fall.

“We are always looking for different ways to reach kids about the issue,” Moore said.

He said he is impressed with the amount of students willing to stand up when it comes to bullying — reporting it themselves or reporting it for someone else.

“The days of ‘Snitches will get stitches’ are over,” he said. “It has to be. When you have kids who are taking their own lives because of this, you have to do something about it.”

That includes helping the bully.

“It cannot just be punitive (for the bully),” Faulkner said. “Something is going on with the bully to cause them to act that way and we need to try to find out what that is.”

She also stressed the importance of helping the victim. “So many plans only focus on the bullying,” she said. “We need to make sure the victims are supported long after the incident.”

Will there always be bullying? Yes, Faulkner said. “It will always, unfortunately be around, and it’s changing all the time,” she said.

It’s how it is handled that, hopefully, makes a difference.

“We must have zero tolerance,” Faulkner said. “We can’t ignore issues or slide them under the rug.”

Contact reporter Michelle Kinsey at 213-5822 and follow her on Twitter @MKinseyTSP.

MCS BULLYING BY THE NUMBERS

Muncie Community Schools

Total number of incidents: 396

Total verbal: 238

Total physical: 102

Total social/relational: 24

Total written/electronic: 32

Total combination: 53

Total number by school:

Central High School – 14

Southside High School – 33

Muncie Area Career Center – 2

Youth Opportunity Center – 0

Northside Middle School – 14

Wilson Middle School – 126

East Washington Academy – 22

Grissom Elementary School – 44

Longfellow Elementary School – 6

Mitchell Elementary School – 8

North View Elementary School – 37

South View Elementary School – 20

Storer Elementary School – 25

Sutton Elementary School – 36

West View Elementary School – 9

http://www.thestarpress.com/story/news/local/2014/08/28/mcs-bullying/14759525/

at 6:55 pm

Federal agency to meet with judge on transgender settlement issues

A case that began over what bathroom a transgender state employee can use has taken another legal twist, this time with a federal agency being asked meet with a judge.

KHON2 has been following for months.

Last week a judge denied a state effort to force the transgender employee to sign a settlement agreement, and now there are many more issues at stake include the concerns of a federal employment rights watchdog.

Kelli Keawe, a Department of Public Safety employee sued the state after years of being banned from the women’s room.

She can use it now.

When it came time to finalize and write out a settlement deal, the state tried to change the terms and asked the court to force Keawe to sign it.

The judge said no.

After back and forth behind closed doors discussions at the courthouse on Thursday more parties are being called to the table — this time the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or EEOC.

“As a result of other new claims that have arisen since then, the opportunity has come up to try to resolve things all at once. I think that is a good thing for the state, it’s a good thing for Kelli, and it’s a good thing for the EEOC.” Keawe’s attorney Peter Hsieh said.

“I think after all we went through I think things will probably get better. It’s just a matter of if we can all come to an agreement,” Kelli Keawe said.

The bathroom assignment and workplace bullying that allegedly followed has caught the attention of the EEOC. Even if Keawe settles a lawsuit, that can’t force the EEOC to look the other way.

The initial settlement would have cost the state $35,000.

The federal matters, and hostility at work that Keawe said continued, could end up costing far more.

Keawe says its not about the money, it’s about fairness, and making sure something like this doesn’t happen to anyone else.

 

http://khon2.com/2014/08/28/federal-agency-to-meet-with-judge-on-transgender-settlement-issues/

at 6:55 pm

SPD officers say city ‘playing politics’ with their lives

In an open revolt, more than 100 Seattle police officers suing to block new use-of-force polices assert that high-level city, police and union officials privately agree with their contention that the court-ordered changes put them and the public in danger.

But the officers who filed the suit aren’t naming those high-level officials, saying only that the officials told them they won’t seek to alter the policies because of the “politics” of the situation and the “perceived inability” to fight federally mandated reforms, the officers allege in newly filed court papers.

“This means that the City is now knowingly and willingly playing politics with Plaintiffs’ lives and the lives of the law-abiding citizens of Seattle,” the officers wrote in a 34-page amended complaint filed late Wednesday with U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman.

The complaint, which added new allegations to a May 28 lawsuit to block the policies, ratcheted up the court fight with its fresh allegations of cowering officials bowing to federal demands and vague claims that the policies have led to more assaults on officers.

Sprinkled with more pointed language than the initial suit, the new complaint accuses the federal monitor tracking the reforms, Merrick Bobb, of carrying out a “zealous agenda” to restrict the ability of officers to use force and make reasonable, split-second decisions.

Bobb is one of a number of defendants in the suit, which also names city and federal officials.

The complaint also lambastes U.S. District Judge James Robart, who is overseeing the reforms and found the policies to be constitutional, for approving the changes in a “cursory, one-and-one-half-page order.”

The filing, which came a week after attorneys for the city and Bobb moved to dismiss the lawsuit, poses a new challenge for Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, a strong supporter of the reforms who, shortly before being sworn into the job June 23, met with four of the officers to convey her concern that their suit had created the appearance that they were resisting reform and hindering efforts to restore community trust.

It also opened an old wound, alleging that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) improperly wrung the policies out of the city based on a discredited and “fundamentally flawed finding” that Seattle officers had engaged in a pattern or practice of using excessive force.

The policies, which went into effect Jan. 1, grew out of a July 2012 consent decree between the city and the Justice Department, which required the police department to adopt sweeping reforms to curtail excessive force and biased policing.

The officers challenging the policies, primarily patrol officers in the 1,236-member department, brought their suit without an attorney or the support of their union, the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild.

In a statement Thursday, guild President Ron Smith said, “As I have stated before, there are severe flaws with the current Use of Force policy, but litigation is not the prudent route to achieve any changes to the policy. The review period for this policy is currently open, and input is being solicited from the rank and file on how to potentially improve the policy.”

O’Toole, in a statement posted Thursday on the department’s website, said, “The Seattle Police Department is moving full speed ahead in implementation of the Consent Decree and will not be distracted in the process.”

Referring to a progress hearing last week in which Robart said to the officers who are suing, “get over it, the train has left the station, it’s not going to turn around,” O’Toole said the “vast majority of SPD officers are entirely committed to modernization and reform.”

Mayor Ed Murray, who is named as a defendant in the suit, said in a statement: “Speaking as chief law-enforcement officer of this city, the policy of this city is compliance with the federal court order. Officers may have their own private opinions about the court order, but noncompliance from employees of this city’s police department is not an option.”

Brad Keller, the attorney for Bobb and members of his monitoring team, noted in an email Thursday that Robart appointed Bobb to serve as the court’s monitor.

“As such, and as we have requested in our Motion to Dismiss, he has quasi-judicial status, providing him with the same immunity from lawsuits as the Judge who appointed him,” Keller added. “Neither he nor other members of the Monitoring Team have any comment regarding the Amended Complaint. As his lawyer, I believe the amended complaint was filed to prevent the Monitor’s pending Motion to Dismiss from being heard and decided in a timely fashion.”

A federal official couldn’t be reached for comment.

In the complaint, the officers allege the use-of-force policies do not reflect the work of department members who were asked to develop them and instead were hijacked by Bobb and the Justice Department.

“Those personnel will testify that the UF policy they wrote was altered almost in its entirety and replaced with specific language provided, and required, by the Monitor,” the complaint says, referring to the overall use-of-force policy.

“This supports,” the officers wrote, the “contention that DOJ, in partnership with Mr. Bobb, intends to use consent decrees in Seattle, as well as other jurisdictions, to rewrite longstanding constitutional law and principles intended to protect officer safety, and eliminate reasonable police practices, with which they — from the comfort and safety of their desks and with no experience facing dangerous threats — disagree or find distasteful.”

Bobb has written semiannual reports that are “self-serving, bullying, and dismissive,” the complaint alleges, noting that Bobb, a Los Angeles-based police-accountability consultant, and his staff have been paid $1.3 million so far by the city.

Echoing the original lawsuit, the officers maintain the new policies have limited their discretion, demanding “perfection, not reasonableness” while setting an “impossible standard” that has left officers “scratching their heads and fearing for their lives” and the lives of others, including suspects.

Since filing their original suit, the officers assert, assaults against officers have significantly increased.

“Evidence of police injuries is mounting,” the new complaint says, without providing details.

In seeking dismissal of the lawsuit, city attorneys wrote that it is filled with “speculation and opinion about the value and effect” of the policies.

The suit’s assertion that the policies require “officers to be hurt or killed in the line of duty is an irresponsible misrepresentation,” the attorneys wrote.

The policies recognize law enforcement is “dynamic” and involves “split-second decision-making,” and even that deviations from the policies are acceptable under certain circumstances, they noted.

Although plaintiffs are “dismissive of these qualifiers,” the city, the Justice Department, the monitor and Robart made sure officers have “reasonable latitude to perform their jobs safely, while still having clear guidelines on how to maximize the safety of officers and the public,” the attorneys wrote.

Robart, during last week’s progress hearing, noted that no attorney had been willing to attest to the officers’ allegations.

“To those individuals,” Robart said, “I simply say: ‘Get over it. The train has left the station. It’s not going to turn around. The good old days are not coming back.’ ”

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this story.Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or smiletich@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @stevemiletich

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http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2024414061_spdcomplaintxml.html

at 6:55 am

New phone app is creating an anonymous outlet for bullying


WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn. –

A new social media app could be creating an anonymous outlet for bullying. The app is called Streetchat and we found out it’s being used by students at least 50 high schools in our area.

We first heard about this app on Thursday when a concerned parent called saying it’s being used as a weapon by bullies.

“It’s a way for other kids to go anonymously and post nasty things about other children without having it traced back to them,” said Emily, a parent of a child at Sullivan East.

She asked us not to use her last name because she didn’t want her comments to be held against her child.

We decided to check out the app and discovered Streetchat describes itself on the Apple website as “a fast reliable way to share your thoughts, gossip and talk about things around you.” The app was created by a group called Factyle.

When you download the app it asks you to pick from more than 50 high schools in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. We chose Science Hill and started scrolling through posts made by students at that school.

The posts weren’t too bad at first and could even be considered nice, like one saying “hope everyone had a good day, hope tomorrow is better.”

The further we scrolled through the posts, the worse they became. We saw a post claiming a boy cheated on his girlfriend and another showing a cartoon of someone being slapped in the face with a caption describing someone above it. Other comments were so sexually explicit we couldn’t air them in our story.

Johnson City schools spokesperson Debra Bentley told us they’re trying to keep students off of Streetchat.

“We consider this a social media tool just like Facebook and Twitter and those are blocked,” said Bentley.

Even though the students can’t get on through the school’s Wi-Fi, they can still access it at Science Hill through their own data plans.

“That is a violation of the technology use policy for the students,” said Bentley.

Bentley told us anyone who uses the app at school will have their phone confiscated.

She said any student who feels as though they are being bullied should tell a teacher immediately.

The school can’t do anything when the students are home so Emily is asking other parents to keep a close eye on what their kids are posting.

“We need to know what our children are doing,” said Emily. “We need to know not only if they’re being the one being bullied but if they’re the one doing the bullying as well.

http://www.wcyb.com/news/new-phone-app-is-creating-an-anonymous-outlet-for-bullying/27783042

at 6:55 am

MCS says its bullying plan is working

Last school year, Muncie Community Schools received 396 reports of bullying.

Bullying, clearly, is an issue here. It’s an issue at most schools in the state. In fact, Indiana ranks third in the nation when it comes to bullying in schools.

But does this local number reflect an issue that is out of control or a bullying plan — put into action last year — that is doing its job?

Chuck Hensley, who heads up security for the district, said once the plan was put into place, there were several reports coming in. But as the year progressed, he said, those numbers went down.

During the first quarter of the year, there were 171 reports. The second had 129, followed by 48 for both the third and fourth.

MCS Chief Academic Officer Ermalene Faulkner said the district has worked hard to create an environment where students feel comfortable reporting bullying.

The numbers, she says, reflect that.

Then there is the law that went into effect last year that requires, among other things, for everyone who works with students to report bullying, from bus drivers to cafeteria workers to volunteers.

“At MCS, we require everyone to report bullying immediately,” Faulkner noted. The numbers reflect that, too.

Wilson tops list

These detailed bullying reports — required by law — are broken into categories: verbal, physical, social (shunning) or relational (dating), written or electronic, and a combination of two or more. All reported incidents must be sent to the state.

A database of incidents at each school in the state was released over the summer by the Indiana Department of Education.

In all, there were 9,396 incidents reported. Forty-four percent were verbal incidents and 21 percent were physical. Other types of incidents, making up a smaller percentage, included written or electronic threats and social shunning at the lunch table or elsewhere.

At MCS, verbal incidents outweighed all other incidents at 238. There were 102 physical reports, followed by 53 combination, 32 written or electronic and 24 social or relational.

The school that had the most overall reported incidents was Wilson Middle School with 126. Eighty-seven of those were verbal; 29 were physical; nine were combination; seven were social/relational, and three written/electronic.

The highest number of physical incidents, 33, was at Grissom Elementary School. The highest number of verbal incidents was at Wilson. All of those students, it should be noted, are now at Southside Middle School. The Wilson building has closed.

All of these incidents, it should be noted, are reports. Not all were substantiated.

Bullies by law

The Centers for Disease Control, which ranked the state third after a survey, also found that 1 in 4 students had been bullied at school the previous year, that 1 in 5 students had been bullied electronically and that 1 in 20 felt the bullying was bad enough that they did not go to school for fear of safety at school or going to and from school.

Studies from the National School Safety Center reported that 60 percent of students who were identified as school bullies ended up with a criminal record by age 24.

During the 2013 legislative session, the General Assembly passed bully legislation (HEA 1423 and then P.L. 285-2013), the first state to do so.

This law changed the definition of bullying and established bullying prevention and intervention program requirements for the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) and school corporations.

We should point out here that the law states that bullying is overt and unwanted repeated acts, including verbal or written communications by phone or computer, that create a hostile school environment for targeted students that place them in reasonable fear of harm or affects their mental health or school performance.

The law requires all schools to keep track of bullying incidents; provide training to employees and volunteers; provide yearly instruction to students; have clear discipline rules in place for all types of bullying, and provide support services for both the bully and the victim.

By October of last year, all school districts were required to have a bullying plan in place.

At MCS, the principal at each school is responsible for implementing the anti-bullying plan. A “point person” — usually a counselor — has been designated by each principal. A verbal report is required right away, to the designated point person. A written report is then required within one school day.

All of the schools now have forms on file to report bullying. The district already had anonymous bullying boxes and a “tip line” available at 747-1632 and, now, an online portal.

Once a form is completed, an investigation — led by the principal — must be started within five days, and Hensley must receive a report within 10 days of the completed investigation.

Standing up

One part of the plan includes training — for students as well as any adult who comes in contact with a student. That training must be completed by October of each school year.

Most MCS schools, Faulkner said, have already had some “bullying discussions” and have more planned throughout the year.

East Washington Academy has designated every Wednesday as “We Care Wednesday” when students and faculty are encouraged to wear anti-bully shirts.

Central High School, according to Associate Principal Gerry Moore, will be showing a film about bullying this fall.

“We are always looking for different ways to reach kids about the issue,” Moore said.

He said he is impressed with the amount of students willing to stand up when it comes to bullying — reporting it themselves or reporting it for someone else.

“The days of ‘Snitches will get stitches’ are over,” he said. “It has to be. When you have kids who are taking their own lives because of this, you have to do something about it.”

That includes helping the bully.

“It cannot just be punitive (for the bully),” Faulkner said. “Something is going on with the bully to cause them to act that way and we need to try to find out what that is.”

She also stressed the importance of helping the victim. “So many plans only focus on the bullying,” she said. “We need to make sure the victims are supported long after the incident.”

Will there always be bullying? Yes, Faulkner said. “It will always, unfortunately be around, and it’s changing all the time,” she said.

It’s how it is handled that, hopefully, makes a difference.

“We must have zero tolerance,” Faulkner said. “We can’t ignore issues or slide them under the rug.”

Contact reporter Michelle Kinsey at 213-5822 and follow her on Twitter @MKinseyTSP.

MCS BULLYING BY THE NUMBERS

Muncie Community Schools

Total number of incidents: 396

Total verbal: 238

Total physical: 102

Total social/relational: 24

Total written/electronic: 32

Total combination: 53

Total number by school:

Central High School – 14

Southside High School – 33

Muncie Area Career Center – 2

Youth Opportunity Center – 0

Northside Middle School – 14

Wilson Middle School – 126

East Washington Academy – 22

Grissom Elementary School – 44

Longfellow Elementary School – 6

Mitchell Elementary School – 8

North View Elementary School – 37

South View Elementary School – 20

Storer Elementary School – 25

Sutton Elementary School – 36

West View Elementary School – 9

http://www.thestarpress.com/story/news/local/2014/08/28/mcs-bullying/14759525/

at 12:54 am

CeCe McDonald Talks About the Bullying That Pushed Her Out of School

Around fourth grade, CeCe McDonald realized that she was trans. “There was this fierce little diva inside me and she wanted to be free,” McDonald recently told a crowd at the Gay-Straight Alliance Network’s (GSA) national gathering.

But that diva had to fight for her freedom.

McDonald detailed the intense bullying and harrassment that drove her away from the classroom. “I felt like I was robbed of my education by other people’s ignorance.”

She shared her story in order to bring attention to the need for more inclusive school settings for queer and transgender children. “We must keep stories like CeCe’s at the heart of our work in GSAs. We must keep working for justice. Commit your GSA to working against criminalization this school year,” wrote Mustafa Sullivan, director of national programs at GSA Network.

Last year, The Atlantic’s Nanette Fondas reported on the harsh reality facing LGBT students of color:

In one study, more than half of LGBT students who are African American, Latino, Asian/Pacific Islander and multiracial said they had been verbally harassed at school in the past year. Another reports nearly half (48 percent) of LGBT students of color experienced verbal harassment from both their sexual orientation and race or ethnicity, and 15 percent had been physically harassed or assaulted. The physical, emotional, and mental health impacts of a hostile climate at school easily encourage avoidance behavior, and students often skip class or stay home. This has deleterious effects on their school performance and college entrance prospects. Serious long term effects of harassment at school emerged in one study: 32 percent of transgender people who were physically assaulted at school reported a history of work in the underground economy, including drug dealing and sex work, compared with 14 percent who had not experienced violence at school. In a different survey, a staggering 51 percent of LGBT people who reported being harassed or bullied at school also said they had attempted suicide.

Read more

Read this online at http://colorlines.com/archives/2014/08/cece_mcdonald_talks_about_being_pushed_out_of_school.html

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August 28, 2014 at 6:55 pm

DA: No charges against Santa Rosa mom in bullying case

Sonoma County prosecutors announced Thursday they will not be filing any charges against a Santa Rosa woman accused of injuring an 12-year-old schoolboy who allegedly bullied her daughter.

Chief Deputy District Attorney William Brockley told Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Dana Simonds that the prosecution cannot prove a case against 30-year-old Delia Garcia-Bratcher beyond a reasonable doubt.

Simonds discharged Garcia-Bratcher and exonerated her bail.

Outside of court, Brockley also defended the amount of time the investigation took. He said parents, students, teachers and bus drivers were interviewed over the summer.

“She should be thankful it took so long because we did a thorough investigation,” Brockley told KTVU.

Garcia-Bratcher allegedly confronted the boy at the Olivet Elementary Charter School on Willowside Road in unincorporated Sonoma County west of Santa Rosa on May 16.

She was accused by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office of grabbing the boy by the throat and confronting him during the lunch hour about bullying her 9-year-old daughter who was in third grade at the time.

She was arrested on suspicion of inflicting injury to a child and posted $30,000 bail at the county jail. She appeared in Sonoma County Superior Court three times while the prosecution said it was still interviewing witnesses and investigating the incident.

Outside the courtroom, Garcia-Bratcher said she was happy the court proceedings are over and was grateful to her attorney Ben Adams.

“I feel like they withheld a lot of information and tried to take me down for no reason. They knew I was innocent,” Garcia-Bratcher said after the brief court hearing.

She said sheriff’s investigators tried to make her admit the alleged injury to the boy and “put words in my mouth.”

Garcia-Bratcher said she has received threats from people online, lost sleep and had to go to a hospital for medication for insomnia.

“It made me sick and depressed,” she said.

The mother of six said her children were afraid she was going to jail.

Sheriff’s officials said the boy Garcia-Bratcher allegedly injured had red marks consistent with being grabbed in the neck area by an adult.

Adams, her attorney, said the defense had witnesses who saw the boy make the marks himself.

“Two children saw him and heard him say he was going to get me in trouble,” Garcia-Bratcher said.

Adams also said the alleged assault victim’s mother is a Sonoma County corrections officer.

Garcia-Bratcher said she went to the school to talk to the boy about bullying her daughter.

“I didn’t want to get him in trouble or make it a big issue and it backfired on me. I will never do it again. I will just file complaints and complaints and complaints. Next time I will let my kids handle it,” Garcia-Bratcher said.

When asked to characterize the three-and-a-half-month investigation that ended without the filing of a complaint, Adams said, “Egg on a face as far as I’m concerned. Everyone rushed to judgment.”

http://www.ktvu.com/news/news/crime-law/da-no-charges-against-santa-rosa-mom-bullying-case/nhBPd/

at 6:55 pm

Bullying starts before school years begin, study says

In a finding that illustrates the complexity of bullying, Dutch researchers report that obese boys are more likely to bully and be bullied than their thinner peers and the vicious cycle begins before these children ever step foot inside a school.

Past research has shown an association between bullying and weight, but most of those studies focused on older children or teens. The average age of the children in this new study was 6.


Related: Today’s parents less able to spot obesity in their kids, study says

“I was very surprised by how young these kids are,” said Rachel Annuziato, an assistant professor for clinical psychology at Fordham University in New York City. “I think our understanding of bullying is that it’s something that starts a little later cognitively and developmentally, but this suggests that isn’t the case. From the day kids walk into school, this is a concern.”

She said researchers have typically thought of bullying as a school-based phenomenon in which students learn bullying behavior from other kids. But these findings imply that kids are learning this behavior outside of school.

Annuziato said she also found it interesting that obesity increased the risk of being both a perpetrator and a victim for boys.

“Kids who are being picked on might start to think this is the way to fit in, to pick on other kids,” she suggested. “That becomes their way to assert themselves after they’ve experienced bullying.”

The link between being a bully and a victim of bullying may also offer clues to the link between bullying and obesity, said Susan Tortolero, a professor of public health at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston.

“A lot of these risk behaviors may have to do with self-regulation, self-discipline and decision-making, which gets into the executive functioning of the brain,” Tortolero said. “It could be that poor coping is going on here, too. They could be expressing aggression because they’re being bullied and they don’t know how to cope with it or express it.”

This possibility was also raised by the researchers, whose earlier work showed that being overweight or obese can lead to social problems among children. Having difficulty managing their emotions might be contributing to both the peer problems and to abnormal eating behaviors, the researchers suggested.

In the new study, more than 1,300 Dutch children and their teachers were surveyed to learn which children were bullies or victims, how often bullying occurred and what form it took: physical (hitting, kicking); verbal (teasing, name-calling); relational (being excluded or shunned); or material (personal items hidden or broken). The children were classified as having a normal weight or being overweight or obese based on their body-mass index, a measurement used to assess a person’s healthy weight for their height.

Lead researcher Pauline Jansen and her colleagues at Erasmus University Rotterdam took into account other factors that might increase the risk of bullying or being bullied. Those factors included age, sex, national origin and mother’s level of education, as well as whether the child had siblings or lived with a single parent.

The findings were published online Aug. 25 in the journal Pediatrics.

Although the children in the study were from the Netherlands, Tortolero said she would expect to see similar findings among U.S. children.

One way to address bullying behavior is to model healthy social relationships and build children’s self-confidence, Tortolero said.

“If your child has a risk factor for kids picking on them, it’s really important to give them skills to cope with those things and to build their self-esteem,” she said. “If you teach your children to problem-solve and how to make decisions, then they will be more successful.”

In addition to addressing the health issue of obesity by helping children make better choices with eating and physical activity, parents can help children find activities and hobbies they excel in, Tortolero said.

For more information on bullying and the effects of bullying: www.stopbullying.gov

http://www.freep.com/article/20140828/FEATURES01/308280169/bullying-starts-before-school

at 6:55 pm

School Daze: Students at Troubled Corinthian Colleges Say They’re in the Dark

Posted by in School

Earlier this summer, Mike Smith, who was finishing his second semester at Everest University Online, stumbled upon a disconcerting news article that said Corinthian Colleges, a giant for-profit school chain and Everest’s parent company, was on the verge of collapse. That article led him to another, then another. Smith called a school official the next day to inquire, but said the official told him she hadn’t heard anything about it.

“She told me not to believe everything I read on the Internet,” Smith said.

Confused and eager for answers, he began posting links from major news sources on one of the student “lounges”—Facebook groups serving as the online equivalent of a study hall or a casual meetup place. “Can anyone tell me what’s going on?” he recalled writing. Smith said the administrator of the group, a member of Everest’s staff who declined to comment, responded by deleting his posts. He also removed him from the lounge for posting “inappropriate” content.

Smith’s experience is similar to those described in recent news reports quoting some of Corinthian’s 70,000 students claiming they were given misleading information about the fate of the for-profit college network—or no information at all. In early July, Corinthian announced it would be selling or closing its 107 campuses and online operations. The announcement came after the Department of Education withheld Corinthian’s Pell grants and loan funds for 21 days, claiming the company was taking too long with a request for detailed records of their students’ performance. The collapse comes on the heels of numerous investigations from attorneys general across the country and the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

On campuses slated for closure, students will either finish their degrees (known as a “teachout”) or, at Corinthian’s discretion, may be eligible for a refund, according to its agreement with the DOE. Students can continue to enroll in the campuses that are up for sale, but if nobody buys Corinthian’s assets or if a buyer makes major changes, those students could end up getting stuck with nontransferable credits, heaps of student debt, and no degree.

After publishing a story about the Corinthian Colleges fallout, NBC News has been in touch with 74 students—through phone calls, emails, and Facebook—who told stories of advisers telling them the news about their school is “a rumor,” “a lie,” “gossip,” that the sale “wouldn’t affect” their studies, that they “shouldn’t worry at all,” that “everything will be okay.” Virtually none of these students remember receiving related correspondence from the school in the weeks following the announcement.

“Lots of us are in the dark,” Smith said.

But a few fed-up students are trying to change that. After Smith was booted out of the online lounge, he started his own Facebook group dedicated to informing students about the closures and sales, as well as other issues related to Corinthian’s wind-down, such as student loan forgiveness, credit transfers, withdrawal instructions, even comic relief to break the tension. (“Never give up!” chirps a cartoon of a beleaguered frog.) Smith’s group, called “Everest University Concerns,” is one of a handful that have become sounding boards for disillusioned Corinthian students who feel they’re getting little feedback from the administration. They vent, share links, problem-solve, and encourage each other to spread the news, trying to correct what they perceive to be an evasive, opaque process.

“Lots of us are in the dark.”

In a written statement to NBC News, Corinthian representative Kent Jenkins reiterated that Corinthian required each incoming student to sign a disclosure mandated by the DOE, and “reached out to existing students through personal contacts, email and newsletters.” One student said he first received information about the sale in Everest College Phoenix’s Student Newsletter dated August 21, 2014.

Jenkins added the company is “addressing the issue of our campus sales openly and honestly,” that “the school has stated [the] facts repeatedly and publicly.”

But Jeffrey Holman, an Everest University Online student on and off since 2010, disagrees. He started a group called “College Corner” after he learned of Corinthian’s plans and felt that he wasn’t getting clear answers. He emailed a school official to ask about the school’s status and inquire about teachouts at programs slated for closure. That official responded, “Rest assured, you will still be able to enroll in your courses, complete your educational program and earn your degree…I don’t see a teach out scenario in our future as there are no plans to stop enrollment into all of our programs.”

This is true: As of now, Corinthian campuses and online programs up for sale are still enrolling students and proceeding as usual. But it’s also not the whole truth: If there are no buyers, the school will close according to the DOE plan. If a buyer decides to make significant changes, some of Holman’s credits may not transfer to the new program. (On at least one Facebook post eventually deleted by a group administrator, Corinthian responded to a student’s concern using similar language.)

Facebook

After many phone and email exchanges with multiple advisers, Holman started College Corner, built out a webpage on the host Wix.com, and initiated a White House petition urging the government to close all Corinthian campuses so the students can “choose their own destiny.” Two other College Corner members have started similar petitions on change.org.

For Holman and others, the groups and petitions are about more than the schools’ closure; they’re places to vent their complaints and discuss issues that Corinthian and some other for-profit universities have come under fire for, from critics and attorneys general: aggressive recruiting, high tuition, and dubious job placement rates.

Although he doesn’t remember receiving a disclosure agreement, Holman says he remembers signing “something saying we couldn’t sue [Corinthian],” he said. (Jenkins said he has “no idea” what document Holman was referring to.) “But what you can do is protest and email and Facebook message people.”

Some students said online groups like these are how they found out about Corinthian’s woes.

“We shouldn’t be finding out on our own,” said Everest student Holly Dickey, who learned about the sale after Smith invited her to the Facebook group. “They should be honest with us. When I asked [a financial aid adviser], he literally didn’t answer my question. He got quiet and moved onto another subject.”

Jenkins wrote that Corinthian has “provided staff with information to help them make sure students get thorough answers to their questions.” He added that the closure has been “widely reported by the news media,” and that it’s “hard to imagine a process more public than this one.” But many of the students interviewed by NBC News said they don’t usually pay attention to the news, and a handful admitted they weren’t aware that Corinthian was connected to their campus (Corinthian’s schools are under the names Everest, Wyotech, or Heald).

“They should be honest with us.”

“At first, I was like, ‘What is Corinthian and why is Mike [Smith] emailing me about it?” said Hope Pryor, a former Everest University Online student who withdrew a few days ago partly because of her program’s uncertain future. Pryor remembers “getting hung up on by several different people” after inquiring about the sale, echoing other students who recalled being disconnected or enduring long waits on the phone. When Pryor did get ahold of someone, she said the school officials deflected by saying “I’m sorry you feel that way” or transferring her to someone else.

Most of her information, Pryor said, has come through “unofficial ways” like links on social media.

But other Corinthian students may not be as plugged-in. Holman and Smith said despite the ample media coverage and their best efforts to reach out to students, it’s been difficult to gain a critical mass. Pryor tried to post a link to Everest University Concerns in the student lounge, but it was deleted by a student administrator. The Facebook groups are still under 200 students each, and none of the petitions have cracked 100 signatures yet. The same factors that attract non-traditional students to online courses and short-term certificate programs make it difficult to organize them for a cause; many of Corinthian’s students have jobs, kids, and unpredictable schedules. For some, the brief time they spend on campus is their only access to the Internet.

Still, for the students who have become galvanized, being part of a community has provided some sanity during a tumultuous time. Discovering the Facebook group, Pryor said, not only gave her the facts, but the confidence to withdraw. She still posts on Everest University Concerns frequently.

“There are new students who have been enrolled in Everest, and they just found out what’s going on by joining our group,” she said. “We’re not trying to force them to leave the school, but we try to tell them the facts. You should know before you spend all this money and time on a degree.”

Meanwhile, Corinthian continues to recruit students to the for-sale campuses—even the ones who have left. Less than a week after she withdrew, Pryor said she got a phone call urging her to re-enroll.

“It was like, ‘Really?’ Why would I want to come back?” she said. “I have $15,000 in debt already. I don’t need any more.”

Education coverage for NBCNews.com is supported by a grant from the Bill Melinda Gates Foundation. NBC News retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/education/school-daze-students-troubled-corinthian-colleges-say-theyre-dark-n190456

at 6:54 pm

Seattle school under review for big jump in state test results

Posted by in School

The state’s annual release of test data for its public schools on Wednesday showed the typical ups and downs from the previous year’s scores with no significant changes.

But one Seattle elementary school’s performance has raised a red flag: Beacon Hill International School.

Passage rates in math and reading at Beacon Hill increased so much compared with 2013 that they are now under review by the state.

The district said it discovered the spike while reviewing preliminary data earlier this month, and asked the state to do the review.

It was the only such anomaly reported by any district in the state this year, according to Nathan Olson, spokesman for the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). He said the review should take a few weeks.

Cheating is only one of several possible reasons why the school’s test results, which have not been posted, rose so dramatically.

State officials are “trying to find out if there’s an innocent explanation for what the anomalies might be,” Olson said.

The K-5 elementary school is one of Seattle’s nine international schools and offers immersion programs where students spend half the day taking classes in Spanish and Mandarin and the other half in English.

Aside from reading and math, the school showed a decline in fourth-grade writing and improvement in fifth-grade science.

In general, Seattle was pleased with its test results, which were higher than the state average in almost every subject.

Statewide, public-school students are doing about as well on state tests as they have done over the past few years. Yet at the same time, many more schools are failing to meet federal standards because the rules have changed.

On Wednesday, Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn called those federal requirements crazy.

Washington had a two-year reprieve from some requirements of the federal education law known as No Child Left Behind, and then in April the federal government withdrew the waiver and forced Washington to go back to the old system. More than 1,900 schools out of about 2,200 in Washington were labeled as failing in 2014 because of the No Child Left Behind system.

The biggest changes on Washington test scores this year were a drop of 5.9 percent in the number of seventh-graders who passed the math exam and an increase of 5.4 percent in the number of eighth-graders who met the reading standard.

Across the state, eighth-grade and sixth-grade classes did better on every test than their counterparts did last year. Significant improvements also were recorded on the high-school biology and algebra tests.

And more than 90 percent of the students in the class of 2014 passed the tests they needed to graduate, and Washington’s graduation rate has reached about 80 percent.

Yet when the scores are examined by ethnic group, Washington kids who are Hispanic, Native American, black, Hawaiian or Pacific Islander continue to trail well behind their white and Asian classmates. Progress on closing the achievement gaps was mixed.

Next year, most students will switch to a new set of tests known as Smarter Balanced, which are tied to the Common Core learning standards that most states have agreed to use.

The state also has promised to do a more thorough job investigating possible cheating, and not just rely on districts to report anomalies, as Seattle did this year.

The Inspector General’s office at the U.S. Department of Education, among others, has urged all states to do such analyses.

Before it lost its federal waiver, Washington was among 43 states and the District of Columbia that had been granted one — a temporary measure while the U.S. Department of Education works with Congress to rewrite the No Child Left Behind law.

Dorn said it isn’t fair that Washington schools have to pay the price for rules that should be changed by Congress and he’s frustrated that the Legislature has not been willing or able to pass a law that would get Washington’s waiver back.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has told Washington it can have its waiver back as soon as it changes its teacher-evaluation system to include student achievement on statewide academic tests as a factor in judging teachers.

Dorn said he will be pushing the Legislature again next year to make that change, which failed to pass during the 2014 legislative session.

Seattle Public Schools believes its unique agreement with the teachers union over the use of test scores in evaluations satisfies the requirement, and its officials have asked Duncan to reinstate the waiver for its own schools, but they are still waiting for an answer.

John Higgins: 206-464-3145 or jhiggins@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @jhigginsST

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http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2024403952_statetestscoresxml.html

at 6:54 pm

Middle school teacher charged with manufacturing child pornography

Posted by in School

A suburban middle school teacher was arrested today on federal child pornography charges alleging he had a teenage boy send him lewd photographs and videos of himself engaging in sexual activities.

John C. Vastis, 51, a teacher at Meridian Middle School in Buffalo Grove, clasped his hands in front of him and answered softly, “Yes, I do,” when U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Cole asked if he understood the charges against him.  

The alleged victim doesn’t attend the school, and no allegations have been made that Vastis sexually exploited any students, according to federal prosecutors.

The arrest came during the first week of school at Meridian.

Reached by telephone, Eli Rogers, the assistant principal of Meridian, said Aptakisic-Tripp School District 102 sent a note to parents this morning notifying them of the arrest and providing an anonymous tip line to call with any information.

“The district is aware of the situation and is cooperating with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which is leading the investigation,” Rogers said.

lRelated Police: Woman woke up with stranger on top of her in home invasion
Buffalo GrovePolice: Woman woke up with stranger on top of her in home invasionSee all related

Rogers said the Buffalo Grove chief of police and the district superintendant are scheduled to hold a news conference at 3 p.m. today outside the school, 2195 Brandywyn Rd. in Buffalo Grove.  

Vastis, a resident of far northwest suburban Lakemoor who is also known as “Pete,” faces a minimum of 15 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge of manufacturing child pornography.

School district hired man in sex offender treatment

School district hired man in sex offender treatment Gregory Pratt, Lauren Zumbach, Joe Mahr A suburban man recently arrested on child pornography charges worked for years at a middle school even after he had been ordered to get sex offender treatment, a Tribune review of district and court records shows. A suburban man recently arrested on child pornography charges worked for years at a middle school even after he had been ordered to get sex offender treatment, a Tribune review of district and court records shows. ( Gregory Pratt, Lauren Zumbach, Joe Mahr ) –>

According to a criminal complaint, federal agents and local police executed a search warrant on Aug. 15 at the residence of a 17-year-old boy who was suspected of possessing and distributing child pornography. 

The youth, identified in the charges only as “Minor A,” told agents that he began communicating via Skype and text messages with an adult he identified as “Pete” in September 2013 when he was 16.  Agents later identified Pete as Vastis, the charges alleged. 

Agents analyzed data from the minor’s computer and cellphone and recovered more than 3,200 lines of chat messages between Minor A and Pete, according to the charges. The sexual exploitation of a minor charges allege that on Jan. 18 and March 3, Vastis persuaded the boy to produce pornographic images of himself and send them to him. 

Vastis was also charged with receiving a video containing child pornography on July 13.

In some of the chats detailed in the charges, Pete told the alleged victim he was worried he was a law enforcement officer posing as a child. After the boy allegedly sent Pete a sexually lewd video of himself, Pete allegedly responded in a chat,  ”HOT!!!”,  according to the charges.

Prosecutors are seeking to hold Vastis in custody pending trial, calling him a risk to flee and a potential danger to the community. Cole set a detention hearing for Tuesday.

jmeisner@tribune.com

Copyright © 2014, Chicago Tribune

http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/buffalo-grove/chi-middle-school-teacher-charged-with-child-pornography-20140828-story.html

at 12:54 pm

Community forum focuses on school bullying

The face of bullying has changed — it is more pervasive because students have more tools to be mean.

To take a stand against it, the Central Alabama Community Foundation on Wednesday sponsored a “Back to School Without Bullying” discussion, which included a gathering of parents, grandparents, educators and social service providers to address the ongoing issue of bullying, and to provide resources available for children.

“They can start with the public schools,” said Burton Ward, president of the CACF. “We can all help, because it’s going to take us all to help our city remain safe.”

The community discussion was presented by Melanie Beasley from the Family Sunshine Center, as well as representatives from the River Region ROCK (Respect Others Create Kindness) task force. The problem of bullying among children and youth was addressed, as well as the coordinated community response taking shape in the form of ROCK.

The task force, established by a steering committee comprised of representatives from the Montgomery public school system (Mona Davis is its spokeswoman), the Family Sunshine Center domestic violence shelter and counseling center, and the Stamp Idea Group (Laura Hicks).

At Wednesday’s session, they discussed the prevalence of bullying and the signs and symptoms of both a bully and a bullying victim. They also discussed bullying prevention strategies.

“It’s a culture of disrespect, a lack of respect for others, not being able to connect or empathize with others,” Davis said. “A lot of that is driven by technology. It’s driven by values we don’t put into our children anymore. We have to do these things because we all know children are different now. And we’re different now, and the world that we’re in is different.

“It’s a matter of adjusting to those changes, to deal with the real-life situations we face. That’s why ROCK has been such a godsend to us. It’s another method of enforcing and teaching students not necessarily what you shouldn’t do, but what you should be doing.”

And sometimes, Davis said, it takes telling a child what to do because often, it doesn’t always come naturally.

“We know they are taking inappropriate pictures and putting them on Instagram, they are spreading rumors about your character on Twitter and Facebook,” she said. “And these things are immediate. It used to be when things happened to you at school, a couple of hundred of kids see it. But now, thousands see it, and it magnifies the pain that students who are bullied are experiencing.”

By the numbers

50

the percentage of teens who have been bullied online (iSafe Foundation)

10 to 20 the percentage of teens bullied on regular basis (Cyberbullying Research Center)

35

the percentage of children who have actually been threatened online, some more than once (iSafe Foundation)

90

the percentage of children in grades four through eight that have been bullied at some point (DoSome thing.org)

1,000,000 the number of children on Facebook harrased in 2011(Consumer Reports)

Signs a child is being bullied

Some signs that may point to a bullying problem are:

• Unexplainable injuries

• Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry

• Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness

• Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.

• Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares

• Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school

• Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations

• Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem

• Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide

Source: stopbullying.gov

http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/story/news/local/2014/08/28/community-forum-focuses-school-bullying/14723567/

at 12:54 pm

Back to school: Bullying is a fact of life, but you can arm your kids with …

CINCINNATI – As parents help their kids prepare for a new school year, they may want to consider more than school supply lists. With bullying grabbing headlines, there are resources to help parents, schools and students.

“It is the new season with schools. It’s a very passionate time for us,” said Todd Schobel, founder of the anti-bullying app Stop!t.

What classifies as bullying?

According to Stopbullying.gov, bullying is “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance” and is “repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.” Stopbullying.gov groups bullying behaviors into three categories:

1. Verbal bullying can be spoken or written and includes name-calling, taunting and threatening.
2. Social bullying is hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. Some types of social bullying are leaving someone out on purpose, spreading rumors about someone or embarrassing someone in public.
3. Physical bullying includes hitting, spitting and taking or breaking someone’s things.

Electronic harassment

Cyberbullying has become a sad new twist twist on verbal and social bullying and is becoming increasingly common.

“The traditional schoolyard bullying is being surpassed by cyberbullying,” Schobel said.

Cyberbullying is repeated electronic harassment and can include sending threatening or offensive messages or images, exploiting others and teasing.

According to McAfee’s 2014 Teens and the Screen study, cyberbullying tripled in the past year. The data show that 87 percent of youth have witnessed cyberbullying. Last year, 27 percent of youth reported that they had witnessed cyberbullying.

One factor contributing to the increase of this breed of bullying is that tweens (10 to 12-year-olds) are getting into the social media mix, Schobel said. Often multiple electronic devices are freely accessible in households with kids who are 10 and, in some cases, younger. The prevalence of anonymous websites and apps like Yik Yak also make it easier for users to bully others without being identified.  

RELATED: 15 sites and apps kids are heading to beyond Facebook

How do you know?

Some indications that a child is being bullied include withdrawal, changes in sleeping patterns and not wanting to go to school.

Teachers should keep an eye out for students who are agitated in class or whose behavior seems different than normal, said Dennis Smith, Lakota East High School Assistant Principal. Anxiety and changes in behavior are things parents can watch for as well, he added.

Kids who are bullied may have suicidal thoughts, Schobel said. Giving away precious items is one sign an individual may be considering taking their own life. According to Sgt. Tom Rich, cyber safety expert for Stop!t, youths who are bullying others often will show signs of it through withdrawal and changes in friends.

“They show very similar characteristics to kids who have been bullied,” he said. Many kids who are bullied have been bullied before, either at home or by other children. “A lot of times, the kids are just looking to get attention.”

Bullying can negatively affect kids, especially those with slight depression or other undiagnosed mental disorders, Schobel said.

“They can very quickly go into a deep, dark place.”

When youths are self-medicating through substance abuse, taking their own lives, skipping school or going to school and not learning because they are distracted, it disrupts the learning environment and affects the community.

What to do about bullying

If a parent suspects his or her child is being bullied, they should communicate with school officials and seek professional assistance from a counselor or therapist, Schobel said.

When bullying incidents are brought to the attention of an administrator or counselor at Lakota East High School, the school official will get a student statement, talk with the alleged bully and begin an investigation. If the incident occurred in a classroom, the administrator or counselor will notify the teacher as well.

“We take bullying real serious,” Smith said.

Although parents cannot always prevent bullying, they can help their children be prepared to face threats.

“One of the big things parents can do is to monitor their kids’ social media interactions,” Smith said.

When youths are involved in social media, their parents should know their passwords. Parents should only use the passwords if they have cause for concern, and whenever possible, they should still monitor what their kids are doing, Schobel said.

http://www.wcpo.com/news/education/back-to-school-bullying-is-a-fact-of-life-but-you-can-arm-your-kids-with-love-support-resources

at 12:54 pm

Sister’s ordeal motivates Las Vegas innovator to create anti-bullying app

Sam Morris

Marcos Ontiveros, Blaze Brooks and Evan Savar, who have collaborated to create the anti-bullying app “Bully Alert,” are seen in their new workspace Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014.

Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 | 2 a.m.

Anti Bully App

Launch slideshow »

Nearly every night for two months, Marcos Ontiveros could hear his little sister crying through the door of her bedroom.

She insisted nothing was wrong and wanted to be left alone. Then one day, she revealed the source of the problem. A girl in her middle school class was picking on her, and no one would do anything about it.

For Ontiveros, a 2014 Southwest Career and Technical Academy graduate, the ordeal became his catalyst in developing an anti-bullying app that will be piloted at several schools in Clark County this fall. Working with his classmate, Blaze Brooks, and partners Evan Savar and TJ Sokoll, Ontiveros is hoping to transform the app, Bully Alert, from a classroom project into a marketable product.

“It did become a motive because I was experiencing that problem,” Ontiveros said of his sister’s struggle. “If you see some kid talking to the teacher and you’re the one bullying, you’re going to know that person is snitching.”

Bully Alert is designed to make it easier for students to report bullying. Rather than summoning courage to tell a teacher or administrator, students can do it from the security of their phone. All they have to do is select the type of incident (cyber, violence, copying, theft, verbal or other), fill out an incident report with the bully’s name, and click send.

The app sends the report directly to administrators and other staffers at the school, unlike the current system where incidents are filed online and sent to administrators at the Clark County School District offices before being filtered to the school.

“This is monitored by the administrators, and who knows the students better than the principals, deans and counselors at the schools?” said Savar, who is a partner and marketing director for Bully Alert.

Ontiveros came up with the idea two years ago while watching a series of bullying incidents on the news. He wanted to create an easier way for students to report bullying incidents that often go unreported. With Bully Alert, there’s no need to know email addresses or phone numbers for text messages, and reports can be made confidentially from mobile devices and computers.

He tossed the idea of a anti-bully app to his buddy, Brooks, and they designed a mock-up as a classroom project. They got an A and moved on. It was only an assignment, they thought.

Then they met Savar, who had helped launch an app himself. He encouraged them to pursue the app and make it a reality.

“We kind of did it for a grade,” said Brooks, who graduated last year with Ontiveros. “Once we brought it up with Evan, he was like, ‘Man that’s genius.’… We didn’t think twice about it.”

Everything has taken off for the group in the past six months. After hundreds of changes and the occasional coffee- and Red Bull-fueled all-nighters, the team has been able to complete the app.

It is no longer just a classroom project; it has become a startup business for Ontiveros and Brooks. They drew the district’s attention after being invited to give a presentation on innovation to a group of Clark County elementary school students. They mentioned the app during the session, which led to discussions and eventually the decision to pilot the product this fall. The piloting is being done in an undisclosed number of Clark County schools, where the app will be interfaced with the schools’ technology systems to allow reports to be made. The app can be downloaded for free at Apple’s App Store or Android’s Google Play.

The team has also opened an office in Downtown Project’s tech incubator “Work In Progress” and is discussing the app with the Boys and Girls Club of Southern Nevada.

At every step of the way, the School District and Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky have supported them, helping them tailor it so it doesn’t violate any student privacy laws.

Skorkowsky said the innovation was an example of ways the district could maximize the talents of its graduates.

“These two kids have come up with this idea on their own, and it’s being piloted at small number of schools,” he said. “It’s a way students will be able to use a smartphone and be able to report (bullying) to the office so we can start getting on it right away. It’s great.”

The process has given Ontiveros and Brooks real-world experience they would never get in the classroom, from how to hold a business meeting to the legal process to what it takes to make an idea a reality.

Eventually they hope to expand to schools nationwide to help combat bullying, and perhaps even format the app platform so that employees can file human relations complaints to their companies.

For now, however, they’re focused on helping students in Clark County like Ontiveros’ sister.

“We’re not going to stop until it’s in every school in Clark County,” Savar said.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2014/aug/28/sisters-ordeal-motivates-las-vegas-innovator-creat/

at 6:54 am

Should Oregon, Washington enact off-campus bullying laws?

PORTLAND, Ore. – As kids head back to class in Oregon and Washington starting next week, there’s a new effort to cut back on the chance they’ll face bullying.

On Tuesday, Illinois joined 12 other states, plus the District of Columbia, to give schools there the power to enforce anti-bullying laws off campus and not just on school grounds. Oregon and Washington’s anti-bullying laws don’t cover what’s becoming known as the “bullying loophole.”

Earlier this year bullying surfaced in anonymous Facebook posts about students at Dallas High School, which is outside of Salem. Pleas from students had already led lawmakers to pass anti-bully laws in Oregon and Washington.

But a study by researchers working with the online Cyberbullying Research Center shows Oregon and Washington are only middle of the pack when it comes to anti-bullying efforts nationwide. One of the researchers, Justin Patchin, spoke with KATU via Skype from Wisconsin.

“Ultimately, some states go beyond that and, for example, direct some kind of prevention or response strategy,” he said. “Oregon’s law, I know, makes some mention of training, but it doesn’t really go into any specifics about what would be required.”

Some Oregon anti-bullying advocates worry the new law in Illinois for off-campus enforcement may go too far.

“I mean, that’s a lot to put on a school to say, things that happen that are on the other side of a city or a town is your responsibility. Right? Schools have a lot to do,” said Noela Young, who is with the Oregon Safe Schools and Communities Coalition.

She would rather have stronger zero tolerance messages for students and parents around laws already on the books.

“I think some of it is about communication,” she said. “You know, how do we get this out to more people and make sure everybody’s paying attention.”

While schools might not have the staff, time or money to address off-campus bullying, researchers believe just having an expanded law in place sends an important message.

“It sort of legitimizes the problem,” said Patchin. “It makes educators and parents and police officers aware that this is something necessary to combat.”

After a check with Oregon’s Department of Education and Washington state’s Office of Public Instruction, it appears that right now neither state has started any effort to help lawmakers write up off-campus legislation.


Cyberbullying resources:

Oregon Safe Schools Communities Coalition

State anti-bullying laws policies (interactive map)

State Cyberbullying Laws: A Brief Review of State Cyberbullying Laws and Policies

http://www.katu.com/news/local/Should-Oregon-Washington-enact-off-campus-bullying-laws-272977961.html

at 6:54 am

Bullying measure shouldn’t be taken lightly – Palladium

It’s clear that bullying in schools so concerned the Indiana General Assembly that lawmakers passed a measure requiring schools statewide to track cases.

Those statistics then would determine what resources would be provided to schools to address the issue.

But the bullying report released recently by the state shows a significant variance in numbers from school to school.

That raises concerns that schools aren’t being consistent or, even worse, aren’t taking seriously the need to track incidents and file such reports.

For instance, Penn High School, the area’s largest with 3,300 students, reported one incident of bullying last year while New Prairie High School — with fewer than 1,000 students — reported 23. Mishawaka High School, which has about half the enrollment of Penn High School, reported 37 incidents of bullying last school year.

Something in those numbers just doesn’t ring true to us.

South Bend didn’t even meet the initial deadline and so was not included in the report. South Bend’s numbers since have been received by the state.

The law defines bullying in detail and requires schools to report all substantiated acts of bullying using categories such as “verbal,” “physical” and “electronic.”

Once considered almost a rite of passage among students, bullying is now being treated as it should be — a serious problem that can have a real impact on victims.

There will be some adjustments for schools and we understand that may take some time. Teachers will have to closely monitor behavior and file reports when needed.

But as we’ve learned through past incidents, bullying can damage the lives of young people. It needs to be taken seriously by schools and acted upon swiftly.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

http://www.pal-item.com/story/opinion/editorials/2014/08/27/thursday-view/14715861/

at 6:54 am

Seahawks Team Up with Free2Luv™ for Anti-Bullying Campaign

RENTON, Wash. – The Seahawks announced today their support of the Free2Luv™ Friends Don’t Let Friends Bully™ campaign that empowers fans and especially youth to celebrate individuality and stand-up to bullying. Fans are encouraged to visit Free2Luv.org to learn more about the campaign and #TakeThePledge.

“The Seahawks family of 12s is inclusive and compassionate,” said Seahawks VP of Community Outreach Mike Flood. “We are proud to support Free2Luv in their mission to stop bullying and help spread the message of respect to empower change within our community.”

Billboards will be displayed featuring Seahawks images along with the campaign slogan Friends Don’t Let Friends Bully. The first billboard is located at 4th Avenue South and South Industrial Way.

With the rise in teen suicides and one out of every three children experiencing some form of bullying, it is Free2Luv’s mission to reach as many communities and children as possible to spread the word Friends Don’t Let Friends Bully.

“We are thrilled to work with the Seahawks for our Friends Don’t Let Friends Bully campaign that encourages youth to stand up and make a difference together, using their voices for good,” says Free2Luv President and Co-Founder, Tonya Sandis. “We are passionate about creating a safer and kinder place for our youth, raising self-esteem and re-instilling hope. We are excited to hold hands with Clear Channel to spread this important message and take one more step towards ending the bullying epidemic.”

“Free2Luv’s mission perfectly aligns with our goal to make a positive impact in our community. We are honored to be teaming up with this organization to help spread their anti-bullying message via the Friends Don’t Let Friends Bully campaign. Clear Channel recognizes the gravity of the bullying epidemic and as community leaders, we want to help raise awareness and create change in our community,” says Clear Channel Outdoor-Seattle President Pam Guinn.

Free2Luv is an anti-bullying nonprofit dedicated to celebrating individuality, spreading kindness and standing up to bullying through arts and entertainment.

Visit Free2Luv.org to #TakeThePledge and learn how to be an agent for change.

http://www.seahawks.com/news/press/article-1/Seahawks-Team-Up-with-Free2Luv%E2%84%A2-for-Anti-Bullying-Campaign/e08ef5b4-219b-4843-88ff-12f13cf67247

at 6:54 am

Combating cyberbullying: ‘We want kids to know they can get help’

Posted by in Cyber Bullying

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Facebook (Credit: CNN)

SEATTLE — Cyberbullying is a growing problem for children as they prepare to go back to school, but there are resources available to help families.

Washington state recently received an “A–” because of some of the laws and requirements regarding cyberbullying. A huge responsibility is placed on schools to educate and to investigate — and determine if law enforcement needs to get involved.

“It is a problem, and it’s certainly, with the advent of computers and the expansion of smart phones and devices, it’s becoming a bigger problem,” said Captain Mike Edwards with the Seattle Police Department.

Edwards works in the Internet Crimes Against Children unit and says even though it’s a problem, there are many misconceptions of what constitutes cyberbullying.

“Making comments about someone’s appearance , things like that, something that hurts someone’s feelings, the same sort of thing that would happen in any playground, any office environment, bullying is bullying but that’s not really what cyber bullying is,” Edwards said.

In fact, under Washington State Law, cyberbullying is actually called cyber stalking. When it hits that level, the I.C.A.C. units gets involved.

“Cyberbullying is elevating it to another level where there is a direct threat, a menacing criminal act,” Edwards said.

Recently, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children put together tips for law enforcement agencies to use when investigating these kinds of crimes. The goal is to spotlight a growing problem for cops as well as kids.

“We want kids to know they can get help. There are places they can turn, there are services available, there are programs out there to help everybody understand there are devastating effects of cyberbullying,” said Nancy McBride, executive director for the Florida region.

If your child does become a victim of cyberbullying, Captain Edwards says there are a few things you need to do.

“One of the big things for us is evidence,” Edwards said.

He says to keep and maintain records of what happened and who sent it. Getting screenshots or save images or messages to your hard drive or external media devices is also helpful. And if it happens on a social media site, often times, they will help you as well.

“If it’s Facebook, if it’s Twitter, if it’s others, you can notify them and they also on their end can capture and preserve it,” Edwards said.

The next step is to notify your school.

“Report it. Report it to your teacher, report it to your councilor, report it to your school administrator so they can start immediately to evaluate it and see exactly what they have going on, and then get parents involved as needed,” Edward said.

And if violence is threatened, report it to your local law enforcement agency.

Finally, if you’re a parent, Captain Edwards says to take time and educate your kids.

“What we’re seeing in law enforcement is more and more children engaging in activity today that ten years ago, absolutely would have never had any thought to do. But today, they don’t even understand why it’s a big deal.”

For more information about this topic, click here.

http://q13fox.com/2014/08/27/combating-cyberbullying/