Though bullying is an issue at virtually all schools, perhaps no district has been as scrutinized for its bullying issues and policies as Mentor Schools has been in recent years after lawsuits filed against the district.
Board members got an update on the school system’s efforts to combat bullying at Tuesday’s meeting.
Bill Porter, director of K-8 education, presented the semi-annual report on bullying in the second semester of the 2010-11 school year.
Porter said there were nine reported incidents of bullying at the high school, six at the middle school level and 10 at the elementary level.
“The numbers are comparable to those from the first semester this year, but are down almost 50 percent compared to the second semester of last school year,” Porter said.
“Most incidents are verbal in nature, while fewer are physical,” he said. “Some are a combination (verbal and physical).”
Porter said a special emphasis has been put on stopping cyber bullying, which occurs over the Internet or by other technological means.
While isolated incidents of such behaviors have sprung up, Porter said so far they have not fit the district’s definition of bullying because the harassment has not been sustained over time.
“Very few of those incidents rose to the level of being persistent and pervasive, but (cyber bullying) will continue to be a focus as technologies change and evolve,” he said.
Last month, a U.S. District Court judge dismissed a lawsuit against Mentor Schools, filed on behalf of 17-year-old Eric Mohat’s estate. His family claimed Eric shot and killed himself after months of persistent bullying in math class.
Judge Donald C. Nugent found that because Mentor High School did not have a “special relationship” with the teen, the school did not have a “heightened level of responsibility for his care and protection.”
A separate lawsuit brought forth by the family of Sladjana Vidovic, another Mentor teen who committed suicide after allegedly being frequently bullied, continues in U.S. District Court.
That suit alleges that three other Mentor students committed suicide in 2007 and 2008, at least in part because of bullying.
Superintendent Jacqueline Hoynes said the full bullying report will be made available today on the district’s website, mentorschools.net.
Hoynes also took time during the meeting to report on the district’s declining enrollment.
Since 2000, total enrollment throughout the school system has dropped from just over 10,000 to just over 8,000 students.
The superintendent said the figures are not a surprise and that another small dip is projected for next school year.
“A lot of people moved to Mentor in the ’70s with a lot of kids,” Hoynes said.
“Now, even though the population of Mentor is not declining, we have more older people and a more balanced demographic profile than we did in the ’70s,” she said.
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