Task force brings community together to address bullying in local schools

first_img “Of the five school districts on Tompkins County, one or two of them had zero reporting in the last reporting year,” he said. “So, pretty much everyone understands that’s probably underreporting.”DASA went into effect in New York in 2012 and was designed to protect students from harassment. It has many components to enforce zero-tolerance for discrimination, harassment and bullying. Schools are required to attend training seminars, make detailed incident reports and conduct an investigation in a timely manner.The task force recommended creating a survey for all district schools to gather data. Celia Clement, a retired school social worker and current consultant for an elementary school in the district, said it was important to get a real sense of the problem. She also highlighted a lack of communication on the school’s part about what parents can do about bullying. “Many school districts are not transparent about giving out information about DASA,” Clement said.Clement said each school district should have its own central website with information on bullying. Until then, she said stopbullying.gov is a starting point for education.Related: Lansing parents urge change in school district to curb bullyingEducation of teachers, families and students, she said, is an essential part of stopping bullying, but students are the people who can catch warning signs earliest.“They’re the first responders,” she said. “They need to know what to do.”Schools need to move away from acting in “crisis mode,” and prevent bullying from happening in the first place, Clement said. Schools also need a plan for bullying intervention, such as escalating consequences or restorative justice.MacLeod said addressing bullying should not be confined within school walls but should be a community-wide effort.Some ideas the public-focused group brainstormed include hosting an annual anti-bullying forum, a student leadership summit and a speaker series. The group also mused about how to best use media to broadcast anti-bullying messages.In Tompkins County, there are a handful of programs and campaigns that target bullying, such as Second Step Social-Emotional Learning, Greater Ithaca Activities Center programs, the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County workshops and the Be the One campaign.Ithaca College student Sophie Callister said her goal is to get other students involved. She said the task force was important to her because she felt the effects of bullying firsthand when she was younger.“I want kids to feel like there is somebody that is willing to help them and listen and that they feel safe every day,” she said. “I never really felt safe in school, and that’s why I didn’t want to go.”The task force will hold a fall summit, date to be determined, for a deeper dive into the issue.Featured image: Flickr photo. Becky Mehorter is an intern at the Ithaca Voice. She is a rising senior at Ithaca College with majors in journalism and Spanish. More by Becky Mehorter Tagged: bullying, Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y. — Community members, educators, students, and youth advocates are stepping in to help curb bullying in local schools — a problem that affects 19% of students nationwide. The newly formed Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force is bringing people together from across the community to understand and address the issue.The task force is planning a holistic approach to tackle bullying in local schools. Using a mix of informational campaigns, social media outreach and education, the task force said it hopes to address the issue through schools and the wider community.About 20 people attended a community launch meeting Saturday, June 15 at the Tompkins County Public Library. The focus was to present the work the task force had done since its creation in January, as well to listen to community input to guide further research and actions.More than 20% of high school students in New York reported being bullied in 2017. Bullying not only impacts students’ mental and academic wellbeing but extends to families as well. Beth Hogan, who is a parent in Lansing and task force member, said her child went through years of bullying and during that time, she didn’t know the extent of her options.“(The bullying) was very hurtful and it doesn’t go away, it never goes away,” she said. “It takes a village. It’s not just one person who can fix this. That’s been my reason for getting involved.”Members of the community gathered at the Tompkins County Public Library on June 15 to discuss ways to prevent bullying. (Becky Mehorter/The Ithaca Voice)So far, the task force examined the landscape by looking for policies, statistics and other information to better understand the scope of the problem. The group used the U.S. Department of Education’s definition of bullying as its basis, which classifies bullying as unwanted, aggressive and repeated behavior that involves a power imbalance.According to the National Youth Risk Behavior survey, 19% of high school students were bullied at school in 2017 and that number was 21.7% for New York State high school students. Though there was no information in this national survey for Tompkins County, district schools are required to disclose the number of incidents of bullying under Dignity for All Students Act. The group found that over the 2017–18 school year in Tompkins schools, there were 109 reports of discrimination, harassment and bullying and 20 incidents of cyberbullying.However, Scott MacLeod, co-founder of The Sophie Fund, cautioned that the numbers don’t show the whole scope of the issue. Your education news is made possible with support from: Becky Mehorter last_img read more