CORNER BROOK The Western School District has a lot of work ahead as it analyzes and acts on the results of a bullying survey completed in 65 of its schools.
Eugene May, education officer for student achievement and student support services with the Western School District, said the survey was a good exercise for the school board and helped identify areas of concern and suggested some ways of dealing with bullying issues.
Three versions of the online survey, one for students in Grades 4 to Level 3, one for staff and one for parents, were completed over the last couple of months.
May said some 85 per cent of students and roughly the same amount of staff completed the survey, along with some 1,600 parents.
The board will now take the results and use them to develop a district plan that will go into its district strategic plan for the next three years. Each school will also receive individualized results and will be asked to develop their own action plans. May said they’ll be asked to address the strengths identified in the survey and the challenges.
May said on the surface the results show the district did well with 85 per cent of students saying they felt comfortable and that there were people to support them. He said the percentages are reflective of national surveys.
May said there were quite a few things that came out of the surveys that surprised him.
One was that physical bullying ranked third among the types of bullying that respondents in all three surveys identified as having seen or experienced.
“Personally I thought it would be higher.”
The number one type of bullying was verbal, which included insults, teasing, taunting and name calling.
The board had anticipated seeing cyberbullying ranking high among the types of bullying but May said in the elementary level it was virtually non-existent and in Grades 7 to Level 3 it was ranked a distant fourth.
May said there are a lot of things that came out of the surveys that the board will develop strategies around but for him three things stood out.
He said the first is a need that came from parents and students for more education on what is bullying and how to report it.
The survey showed that 25 per cent of elementary students and 20 per cent of high school students “couldn’t tell us if they were being bullied or not. They were not sure.”
May also said that a quarter of the parents surveyed weren’t aware of how to report bullying.
“We need to do work with schools around providing schools with the information and training for making sure students are aware of what bullying is. Making sure that schools have processes in place that parents and students are aware of for reporting bullying.”
May said the board also has to make sure schools have processes in place to get information to parents.
The second thing May feels needs to be addressed is having the schools develop programs or plans of working with students to develop empathy for each other such that they’re willing to report bullying and willing to help out when they see someone being bullied. Half of those surveyed said they saw bullying but did nothing about it. The top reason being it was none of their business, followed by being afraid.
May considers this to be big challenge, but he said it has to be put out there that “we have responsibility for each other.”
The third area May feels needs to be addressed is to provide more support to classroom teachers.
He said overwhelmingly in the surveys among both elementary and high school students the classroom teacher was identified as the first person someone being bullied would seek help from.
May said the board will have its district strategic plan ready by the end of this school year with implementation beginning in September.