Bullying. It can be one of the most damaging experiences any student goes through. It can cause school-wide disruption in some cases and robs students of the ability to learn. Are Delaware schools safe? Do they take the best steps to prevent bullying from happening? Dover High School, in the Capital School District, is in the midst of launching an Anti-Bullying Protocol. They will be discussing this at the Capital Board of Education meeting this evening. Principal Courtney Voshell has heard the concerns and sees what happens when bullying happens. This school, students and staff alike, are sick of the bullying and are saying “Enough is enough!”
Any stop bullying plan is only as good as the implementation of it. I believe the drive to make this plan work is there, but it’s long-term outlook is unknown. I believe it is a good plan, but I do have some concerns. The words “students with disabilities” or “special education” are not mentioned once in the below document. Special needs students have been the victims of bullying and have also been the agitators of bullying. There are very specific laws, at a federal and state law, that protects these students in certain situations. Can a school-wide plan contradict an IEP team, state law, or federal law? If a school isn’t implementing an IEP correctly, should a student be punished for behaviors that are a manifestation of that disability? This is a very hard question to answer and I don’t have the answer. I am not saying this to be a Donny Downer on the plan. I think it is excellent, and if it takes off, it should be a model for many schools in Delaware. But I believe this is an angle they should look at.
My other concern is this: Why is this being done at a high school level and not the elementary or middle school levels? One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard in the Capital School District is the middle schools. Students are coddled in the elementary schools which go up to 4th grade in this district. But then they are thrown into one school for 5th and 6th grade, and then another for 7th and 8th. If those schools aren’t aggressively tackling the bullying issues (and they might be but I haven’t seen any plan this extensive coming from them), leaving the burden on the high school could be a lesson in futility. I strongly urge William Henry Middle School and Central Middle School to take a hard look at this plan and try it out in their own schools.
I would say a lot of responsibility for bullying should be on the part of parents. If they see their child participating in any type of bullying activity, they should crush it at the onset. I always tell my son when he is crossing a line with friends or online. Even though he has disabilities that affect his thinking at times, it is my duty as a parent to let him know what is right and what is wrong. By the same token, when I see him standing up for others who are bullied, I congratulate and praise him. This is just as important. I firmly believe parents need to watch their children’s social media and online activities, even if they are in high school. Things happen outside of school that may never manifest itself in that setting. Parents or guardians need to know who their kids are hanging out with and who could be seen as a bad influence. If they know of something going on outside of the school, I believe they should proactively tell a school to inform them of the situation. I don’t expect the school to fix those issues, but knowing about things is half the battle.
If other schools or districts in Delaware are already using this type of bullying plan, I apologize in advance for giving Dover H.S. the credit for all this. If that is the case, kudos to those schools and to Dover H.S. for picking up the ball and running with it. This is what we should be doing in Delaware: finding out what truly works and emulating it so all our students can truly succeed (this is not an endorsement for Common Core, Smarter Balanced, or any corporate education reform Kool-Aid agendas).