After months of waiting, I received an email from the Delaware Department of Education that their 2016-2017 Annual Bullying Report was completed and up on their website. While I am unable to take a deep dive into this and compare it to previous years, I did want to get it out there for folks to view. When I asked the DOE last week about the status of the report, they did explain the area that handles the report went through a leadership turnover in the past few months which is understandable for the delay.
Twelve days ago, I put up a post about a Mom taking on Red Clay’s “Zero Tolerance Against Bullying”. Apparently the situation is not getting better and the mom released a bunch of new videos. This is one mom I wouldn’t mess with Merv!
With Maya Paveza’s permission, she is allowing me to share a Youtube video she released today. I will let the video speak for itself. But it is a horrifying story about one student’s personal journey through hell in Red Clay schools over the past eight years. No student or parent should go through this gut-wrenching hell at all, much less over eight years. I hope Katarina gets the peace and healing she deserves. I will post the other videos in this series. I did the same thing three years ago, albeit in a different format. Only fitting I help another Delaware student tell her story.
The Delaware Dept. of Education officially released their 2015-2016 school bullying report. The report has a lot of good information, but how they lumped certain schools together is just wrong. One thing to keep in mind is that these reports only reflect what is submitted to the Delaware DOE through the eSchool tracking system.
Charter schools are listed in two categories: those in New Castle County and the rest that are in Kent and Sussex counties. For the vo-tech school districts, they are listed as “technical” schools. Which is ironic because there are more students in each vo-tech then in Delmar School District. As well, the Vo-Techs are all high schools. The report does not give a breakdown of schools or the grades for the students. Those are pretty important parts which would give a more accurate picture about what goes on with bullying.
What this report does not reflect is the amount of times teachers may want to submit a bullying report but they are ignored by administration at the school. Or if bullying is weighted less in an incident over something like offensive touching (most likely fighting) so a bullying incident is not reported by the school. I believe if a fight starts because of bullying, that should be recorded as well.
The actual report by the DOE lists the alleged incidents over the past five years separately from the substantiated incidents. This does not give a reader an accurate reflection of true trends within a district or the DOE’s own self-created “districts”. For as much as the DOE brags about their data capabilities and need for tracking data, this report is lacking in a great deal of information. Luckily for you, I spent a few hours breaking it down and putting it all together. The first number for each year is the alleged number of bullying reports submitted by the school. The second number is the amount of those reports that were substantiated as bullying. I have some insight after the numbers…
12-13 233 73 31.3%
13-14 164 24 14.6%
14-15 237 32 13.5%
15-16 304 35 11.5%
12-13 108 93 86.1%
13-14 63 79 125.4%*
14-15 37 37 100%
15-16 49 21 42.9%
12-13 211 32 15.2%
13-14 118 40 33.9%
14-15 75 14 18.7%
15-16 103 27 26.2%
12-13 42 19 45.2%
13-14 39 13 33.3%
14-15 77 26 33.85
15-16 53 18 34.0%
12-13 80 28 35.0%
13-14 58 25 65.8%
14-15 51 18 35.3%
15-16 28 15 53.6%
12-13 130 65 50.0%
13-14 114 38 33.3%
14-15 183 65 47.1%
15-16 134 55 41.0%
12-13 248 44 17.7%
13-14 97 37 38.1%
14-15 81 63 77.7%
15-16 116 50 43.1%
12-13 90 10 11.1%
13-14 0 6 0 0.0%*
14-15 58 3 5.2%
15-16 25 2 8.0%
12-13 215 39 18.1%
13-14 150 25 16.7%
14-15 92 21 22.8%
15-16 252 51 20.2%
12-13 49 37 75.5%
13-14 30 12 40.0%
14-15 34 1 3.0%
15-16 58 12 20.7%
12-13 18 23 127.8%*
13-14 37 18 48.6%
14-15 28 12 42.9%
15-16 27 16 59.3%
12-13 116 20 17.2%
13-14 31 26 83.9%
14-15 37 15 40.5%
15-16 43 23 53.5%
12-13 596 121 20.3%
13-14 453 132 29.1%
14-15 415 102 24.6%
15-16 428 61 14.3%
12-13 28 16 57.1%
13-14 17 18 105.9%*
14-15 34 8 23.5%
15-16 40 21 52.5%
12-13 69 13 18.8%
13-14 47 18 38.3%
14-15 57 20 35.1%
15-16 55 19 34.5%
12-13 34 8 23.5%
13-14 15 10 66.7%
14-15 4 1 25.0%
15-16 25 9 36.0%
Technical Schools (the three vo-tech school districts)
12-13 44 36 81.8%
13-14 30 67 223.3%*
14-15 18 67 372.2%*
15-16 37 42 113.5%*
12-13 89 9 10.1%
13-14 107 22 20.6%
14-15 134 28 20.9%
15-16 125 17 13.6%
Charters: Kent and Sussex
12-13 46 27 58.7%
13-14 72 22 30.6%
14-15 54 10 18.5%
15-16 69 20 29.0%
12-13 2446 713 29.15%
13-14 1642 632 38.49%
14-15 1706 543 31.8%
15-16 1971 514 26.1%
Okay, first off, what the hell is up with the Vo-Tech numbers? How can you have more substantiated bullying incidents and less actual reporting of alleged incidents? It doesn’t make any mathematical sense whatsoever. And the fact this has continued for three years in a row, someone at the DOE is dropping the ball. Or the DOE messed up the report. If it is the former, why isn’t the DOE giving technical assistance to the vo-techs on how to accurately report bullying? If it is the latter, come on guys! I’ve been asking for this report for weeks but you need to check your numbers. Aside from the vo-techs, any of the above entries with an asterisk next to it shows the same mathematical anomaly. With all due respect, John Sadowski runs the school climate and discipline unit at the DOE and I have always found him to be very helpful when I look for information.
I don’t trust a lot of these numbers. I don’t believe many of our schools are actually reporting everything to the DOE. Nor do I believe a lot of the substantiated numbers. I will give a margin of error for students filing false claims or parents overreacting. But not that big of a margin! In the first year of this required reporting, I can give some slack as schools tried to figure it all out. But it is three years later so there should be no excuses. I don’t like the downward trend in substantiated bullying that is happening as a state, especially in districts like Red Clay, Appoquinimink and the New Castle County charters. I don’t like the lack of consistency across the districts and charters. I don’t believe any of the substantiated numbers that are below 35%, and that is stretching the credibility factor on my part. I’ve always felt many schools in our state do less than the bare minimum when it comes to bullying reporting. This report proves it.
What makes the reporting given by the schools even more unbelievable is the listed reason for the substantiated bullying incident. “Peer Attention” and “Other” make up over two thirds of the listed reasons. That sparks of laziness on the school’s part. Almost anything could be put into those categories. But they fail to capture a true reason for the victim of the bullying and why a bully would target someone. For all the anti-bullying campaigns in schools, if we can’t get accuracy in the reporting of it we won’t be able to eradicate bullying unless we truly understand what is going on. We need honesty and fairness. If schools are operating in an environment of fear in reporting truthfully with bullying, then we need to tackle that as well. But no school is doing anyone any favors by not reporting what is actually happening. And if teachers continue to be ignored by administrators over bullying reporting, that is something legislation should take care of as soon as possible.
Here is the actual report issued by the Delaware DOE:
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).
It must be Matt Denn day here at Exceptional Delaware! In any event, Delaware Attorney General appeared on Comcast Newsmakers with Jill Horner on March 21st to talk about Senate Bill 207. This legislation would make it so schools do not have to call the police every time there is a fight in a Delaware public school. The schools still could, but they would have discretion based on the circumstances and the potential of serious injury. As well, SB207 would mandate schools disclose the contact information for the Ombudsman at the DOJ who deals with school bullying issues to parents.
Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams introduced House Bill 250 on January 20th. Today it appeared before the House Education Committee and it was released based on its merits. The bill would make it so parents can’t choice their child out of a school for good cause unless a bullying incident is considered to be substantiated. Normally I agree with 99% of the legislation Rep. Williams sponsors but this one I cannot give my full support to without major changes. From the synopsis of HB250:
In 2014, the Legislature passed a bill adding instances of “reported and recorded” bullying to the list of reasons why a child could be withdrawn from a choice or charter school before the expiration of the statutory minimum enrollment period or why an application for admission or withdrawal could be accepted outside of the statutory timeframe for submission. This bill seeks to clarify and strengthen that law by adding a requirement that the instance of bullying must also be substantiated. This will ensure the integrity of the law by limiting its exploitation by persons who wish to change schools for unrelated reasons, but preserving the exception for children truly in need of special consideration due to school bullying.
My fear with HB250 is the schools and districts themselves. I have heard many times from parents that they submitted a bullying report that was not substantiated by the school even though it was clearly a bullying incident. While Rep. Williams states parents used the “good cause” related to bullying as an excuse to choice their child to another school, the flip side of this legislation is far more dangerous. What happens if a student is bullied and the school never substantiates that bullying? Even when it clearly is bullying? Isn’t that putting a student at serious risk of harm or injury by not allowing the parent to choice their child out of that school?
I’m not saying every school or district does this. But some facts can’t be ignored. If a school has too many bullying and violent incidents, they can be labeled as an “unsafe school”. Schools don’t want this which is why we don’t always see more substantiated bullying incidents. Christina School District had the Office of Civil Rights come down on them because they had too many suspensions for minority students. I’ve heard from many teachers in Christina that they have to be very careful with suspensions because of that. As a result, things that are indeed bullying could be looked the other way due to the OCR ruling. Many Delaware schools and districts took careful note of that.
I think with a bill like this there should be a clause that all bullying incidents be reviewed by a neutral third-party if a parent disagrees with the unsubstantiated ruling from a school administrator. I don’t agree parents should use “good cause” as an excuse to choice their child out if no bullying is happening. But at the same time, keeping any student at a school where there is a chance they could be bullied more is not safe to do.
Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams introduced a bill yesterday concerning school bullying and when a student can transfer to a different school when “good cause” has been established with school bullying. The current law does not specify what category of bullying can trigger such a transfer. Rep. Williams legislation would create a new law requiring the bullying to be a substantiated incident. This would mean an official bullying complaint would need to be filed by the parent or guardian at the school, who would in turn have to rule bullying did occur. All Delaware schools are required to report this information to the Delaware Department of Education.
This bill would prevent parents from just switching out students without a valid good cause, which unfortunately happens at times in Delaware. The current law does not protect the schools and the loss of funds when these events occur. While some parents may take issue with this due to schools not ruling a bullying incident as substantiated (which is a whole other issue which I would like to see improved), there are other options for parents to take should a school not agree with the complaint. All Delaware schools are required to have the website and contact information for the Delaware Ombudsman for Bullying Prevention through the Department of Justice.
In 2014, then Lieutenant Governor Matt Denned issued a statement regarding the responsibilities of schools reporting bullying incidents:
“It is encouraging to see the progress our schools have made in keeping parents informed about bullying, because that was one of the primary goals of the 2012 legislation,” said Attorney General Denn who co-authored the 2012 legislation as Lieutenant Governor. “But our schools clearly have more work to do in letting parents know what recourse they have when bullying does occur, and the state needs to do a better job accurately tracking bullying incidents so we can accurately monitor our overall progress.”
All bullying complaints, whether substantiated or not, are required to be reported to the Dept. of Education and it is the school’s responsibility to enter the information on a system called E-School. I have always encouraged parents to request a copy of their child’s E-School report. This can be done at a school or district level in most situations. To read the legislation, please see below:
Skyline Middle School. Anne Gullo. The Appoquinimink Bus Driver. Delaware Met. This is just in the last month. As these incidents of bullying and abuse become more public, I haven’t seen any official statement from those in power in Delaware on these systemic issues going on. This is the bottom line: students don’t feel safe. While the DOE wants to bury students in their latest programs with the University of Delaware about social skills and positive behavior supports, which are also costing the state millions of dollars, the districts or charters don’t implement those things and it is a colossal waste. They talk the talk and walk the walk, but who are we kidding? Why are we seeing adults take out their frustrations on kids?
NBC Philadelphia covered the Appoquinimink bus driver. The district said she wouldn’t be driving their kids anymore. That’s great. But more needs to be done. This kid was being bullied, and he needed help. Instead of the bus driver, or substitute bus driver (immaterial to me, still an adult in charge of kids) even noticing there was already a situation going on where a kid was getting hurt, she did nothing. She finally acted, and in a highly inappropriate way, when she was forced to do something as this kid yelled at her for help. What she did is disgusting and morally reprehensible.
It doesn’t matter if its one person or hundreds. No kid deserves this. From other kids or adults. When I was a kid, we didn’t call it bullying. We usually called it getting the crap kicked out of you. There are always going to be reasons for it. Somebody doesn’t like something the other kid said. They are jealous over a girl. A kid is black. A kid is white. A kid is gay. A girl is mean. A kid has disabilities. A kid doesn’t believe the same thing another kid does. Maybe if kids actually enjoyed learning, and were not tied to curriculums tied to standards tied to standardized tests tied to teacher evaluations tied to school report cards, we could put an end to this. We have more resources than ever before to tackle these issues, but our failure of a Governor ignores these issues. He assigns people to “serve at the pleasure of the Governor”. We need to elect leaders and Secretaries who serve at the pleasure of the people!
This is where you come in Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn. You do not serve at the pleasure of Jack Markell. You are a publicly elected official. Prior to your becoming Attorney General, you were the Lieutenant Governor and I watched you chair a very decent IEP Task Force. I was drawn to you because you spoke succinctly when needed and firm when it was desperately needed. When you first became Attorney General nine months ago, I saw very positive moves on your part. The first of which was an Office of Civil Rights and Public Trust, which I have referred many parents to. I have yet to see any action coming out of this office Matt. We don’t see any official reports or press releases coming out of there at all. Has it really come down to Delaware needing a Department of Bullying and Physical Abuse Against Children?
I truly think it is a good thing that parents can take personal action on individual cases in Delaware. But they are forced to shut up about it in most situations. That isn’t justice. It is covering it up. It is making the bad stuff (for the guilty party) just go away. Talk to most parents who go through that process, and they would much rather have worked it out with the school earlier. If there is not a systemic change, nothing will change. We will see more Skylines, and Appo bus drivers, and Anne Gullos, and Delaware Mets. We need YOU Matt Denn to become the Attorney General we elected and become a bully against bullying. We need YOU to take quick action. We all know schools are underreporting. We know stuff gets covered up. We need you to take action when schools don’t. Since we are becoming a data mad country anyways, why not give parents access to their child’s e-school report. It’s a digital world now. When bullying happens, an email goes to parents and they see it. And I think your office should have access as well. We need more heroes and less victims Matt. Kids need YOU to be that hero. It has to be YOU.
For the citizens of Delaware, we need you to stop with the high-fiving of how great your kid’s school is in certain areas. We all know what schools are “the best” and we all know why. Education shouldn’t be a competition, but our Governor has created this environment. Race To The Top may be over, but don’t think our schools aren’t competing against each other every single day. It is all about the stupid test scores for them. You will be seeing them really concentrating on attendance as well because that is going to be another accountability measure for them. They always seem to do what the DOE wants them to do, but that does not always translate into doing what is best for the students. As many Delaware parents already know, they will cover their own ass first. If they are tackling bullying and “social skills” and “positive behavior supports” for the purpose of driving up test scores, they are completely missing the boat.
Parents are going to start organizing as more and more issues become public and transparent. It is happening already. And we don’t like a lot of what we are seeing in our schools, the DOE and Governor Markell. The drums of war are already starting to beat. We will only be shushed so many times before we start to get really loud. We will not be disrespected and we will certainly not let our children be disrespected. We will not be lied to, and we will not be told one thing only to have it change after administrators get together and have a meeting about it. We are the parents of the students who you want to take meaningless and useless tests. We are the parents of students with disabilities. We are the parents of low-income and poverty students. We are the parents of the bullied and the abused. We are the parents of those who are punished without due process. We are the parents of students whose schools think they know about our children than we do. We are the parents of students who are also taught by parents. We are the parents of homeschooled kids. We are the parents who talk to legislators more and more every day. We are the parents of students who choice out of school districts. We are the parents of students who were opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment and Governor Markell severely disrespected. We are the parents of youth who are already in prison. We are the parents of the students who are physically restrained. We are the parents who raise our children by the standards we believe in not what the state wants us to. We are the parents who vote. We are the parents who talk about all of this stuff on social media every single day but give a smile and a nod when you see us and you are none the wiser. We are the parents of Delaware.
“Imagine what would happen if millions of our kids grew into adults with better skills to deal with conflict and to cultivate peace. It could fundamentally change our nation and world for the better.”
Huffington Post came out with an excellent article yesterday on school violence and bullying. This is an issue that hits home for far too many students, parents and schools. There are several great resources out there to deal with these issues, but the key is having the proper staff to implement them.
This is the key battle in our schools, not standardized testing and Common Core. But because of these two items, many schools and states have confused curriculum and testing with academic readiness. It’s not just understanding the material, it’s developing the life skills to be able to take those skills into adulthood. Schools can teach academic standards all they want, but if the student doesn’t have the social skills, none of it will matter.
To some, they believe this is not a school’s responsibility. It belongs to the parents. I agree, but only to the point that this is a parent’s responsibility while a student is at home. So much of our children’s lives are shaped by what happens in school. Peer interaction happens in an education setting the most in students lives. Schools are obligated to provide these types of services, instead of accuse/blame/punish. I will go one step further than the article written by Matthew Albracht with the Peace Alliance and say schools need to stop the interrogation techniques with students and not always assume one person needs to take responsibility. What if it is a child with a disability and the “fault” is a manifestation of the disability? Should a child be made to take accountability for something they can’t help? What if a situation started outside of school and the student at “fault” continued it in school? Should they be considered accountable if they didn’t necessarily start it to begin with? These are heavy questions and the time is now for this discussion.
I think any peaceful technique to curb the violence in our schools is welcome, whether it is meditation or social learning groups or whatever works to peacefully stop the situations from occurring in the first place. This means being proactive rather than reactive.