Pittsylvania students: bullying not big problem; but many don’t report it
Bullying has received an unforeseen amount of attention in the national media over the last few years, highlighting stories of the horrible abuses some students suffer. But is bullying a problem in the Pittsylvania County school system?
The data available would indicate there are few students repeatedly in trouble — and repeated offenses is a key sign of bullying. In the 2010-11 school year, 44 students were disciplined for 46 incidents including violence and the crime of bullying, according to the Virginia Department of Education.
There are more than 9,000 students in the Pittsylvania County school system, and less than 1 percent of students are reported for bullying. But are there unreported incidents?
On Monday, school superintendent James McDaniel met with high school students at their annual Student Leaders Forum where student have a chance to talk to administrators about what issues are important to them and how they feel the administration is handling them.
One of the issues brought up was bullying. Students mostly felt that is was not a major issue in the school system, but it does happen — and many are just not reported.
Tunstall High School junior Courtney Giannini said she has witnessed individual incidents before, which are mostly done when a teacher cannot see it.
“Students don’t want to report it,” said Giannini. “They don’t want to tell because they don’t want to get bullied anymore.”
But McDaniel said if the students don’t tell anyone, there isn’t much they can do about it. One thing the schools do in an attempt to help this fear is to provide every student with the ability to make an anonymous complaint about bullying or other issues.
There are also programs in every school to prevent bullying among the children.
One of things teachers and administrators looks for is students who pick on others time and time again, not just one incident. One student at the forum said a lot of time students are singled out because they look different or do not have a lot of friends and they will be picked on by several others.
Gretna High School senior Matthew Wyatt said he sees bullying as an incident where a student is being mistreated and is unprovoked. Tunstall High School assistant principal Edwin Newnam said they take bullying seriously and if a student has unwarranted treatment it can lead to bullying and be dealt with.
Students and administrators at the forum agreed that bullying always needs to be dealt with and it isn’t a huge problem in the school system, but there is confusion about what actually bullying is.
At Tunstall Middle School, principal Rebecca Stevens said a lot of parents and students have come in worried about bullying but it is important to determine the root of the issue and see what exactly is going on.
“I like children to recognize what they are doing,” said Stevens. “A lot of times because of the socialization of middle schoolers, they don’t realize what they are doing is bullying.”
But she added that a lot of people will say call a behavior bullying, but after some investigation, it amounts to a disagreement among students.
“Because of all the publicity of cyber bullying, the word bully is just a quick word to use,” said Stevens. “But a lot of what it is, is not bullying … bullying is not when you roll your eyes at somebody.”
Many teachers and principals have also been to different seminars so they can recognize signs for bullying among students, even if they can’t see particular incidents. And every incident reported is supposed to be looked into by school administrators.