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.
The Delaware Department of Education has not released the state law required annual bullying report for the 2016-2017 school year. As per Title 14 of Delaware State Code:
(4) The Department of Education shall prepare an annual report, which must include a summary of all reported and all substantiated incidences of bullying, a summary of the information gathered under paragraph (b)(2)f. of this section, and the results of audits conducted under paragraph (d)(4) of this section. The Department shall post the report required by this subsection on its website.
I reached out to the Delaware DOE about this a month ago and received a response from the Public Information Officer, Alison May, that it “should be” released at the end of the month. Here we are, a month later, and no report. Which would have put this after the choice window closed in the beginning of January. How can parents make accurate and informed school choice decisions for their children without information like this? Bullying is a very big concern for many parents and it helps to know the numbers for these in Delaware schools. That is, assuming they are reported with fidelity. I recently heard a tale of a high school principal who took a stack of discipline referrals and put them in a shredder without acting on them.
I took a look at earlier years to see when those reports were released:
So why hasn’t the Delaware Dept. of Education released this report yet? Is there some type of issue? The year with a report issued at the latest date in the next school year was the 2015-2016 report. Here we are two and a half months after that date, in Mid-February, and no report.
I checked into other required reports that haven’t come out from the DOE yet. We have yet to see the annual report on Teen Dating Violence. I have to wonder what is going at the DOE under Secretary Bunting’s command. I know they are going through a “reorganization” but they are still required to comply with Delaware law. Annual reports need to be released in a timely fashion. I shouldn’t have to be some citizen watchdog writing about this stuff. I expect to be able to go to the DOE website and find what I’m looking for. I don’t mind doing that but I would rather they just do the right thing to begin with. I would prefer to write about a report instead of a lack of finding one. So what is the repercussion for the DOE not following state code on this? There is none. There is absolutely no accountability except for maybe the Governor calling Bunting and saying “Why am I reading about this on Kevin’s blog? Get the damn report out!” and Bunting saying “Yes sir”. There is no mechanism in Delaware to oversee these kind of things and alert the state agency about not following state law. When it comes to education, I guess that’s me. And people wonder why I seem upset sometimes and claim I never do some due diligence before I post stuff.
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:
Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn came out with a 2015 report on bullying a few weeks ago. While he noted a decrease in the amount of bullying substantiated incidents, he also found there to be such a huge decrease that the question of reported incidents is suspect. Basically, he is stating schools aren’t reporting the reality on the ground.
In looking at the 2013-2014 Annual Bullying Report, as seen below, there are seven charter schools in Delaware with NO substantiated bullying reports. Of particular interest are two out of the three charter schools that belong to the Red Clay Consolidated School District. Red Clay authorizes and monitors these charters, and the two charters in this district with no substantiated bullying incidents, Charter School of Wilmington and Delaware Military Academy, do not update their websites with minutes of their board meetings as well.
Once again, in 2012-2013, 8 charters reported NO substantiated bullying incidents.
Out of the local school districts, the following had the biggest decreases between 2012-2013 and 2013-2014:
Appoquinimink: down 67%
Christina: down 42%
Colonial: down 15%
Indian River: down 36%
Lake Forest: down 68%
Laurel: down 22%
New Castle County Vo-Tech: down 22%
But where this gets really interesting is when you take a look at the percentages compared to the entire student body for each district or charter of reported bullying incidents (SBI) in comparison to offensive touching of a student (OTS) and fighting/disorderly conduct (FDC) reports:
Academy of Dover: .64% for SBI, 0% for OTS, .32% for FDC
Appoquinimink: .25% for SBI, 2.1% for OTS, .72% for FDC
Brandyine: .73% for SBI, 5.4% for OTS, 2.2% for FDC
Caesar Rodney: .51% for SBI, 1.0% for OTS, 1.7% for FDC
Campus Community: 2.2% for SBI, 7.7% for OTS, .49% for FDC
Cape Henlopen: .26% for SBI, .20% for OTS, .85% for FDC
Capital: .38% for SBI, 1.1% for OTS, 1.9% for FDC
*Charter School of Wilmington: 0% (970) (School Code Parameter is Missing A Value)
Christina: .23% for SBI, 4.6% for OTS, 4.3% for FDC
Colonial: .37% for SBI, .40% for OTS, .70% for FDC
Delaware Academy of PSS: 0% for SBI, .33% for OTS, 2.1% for FDC
*Delaware College Prep: 4.5% (218) (School Code Parameter is Missing A Value)
*Delaware Military Academy: 0% (568) (School Code Parameter is Missing A Value)
Delmar: .44% for SBI, .14% for OTS, .16% for FDC
East Side: 1.7% for SBI, 1.5% for OTS, 8.2% for FDC
Family Foundations: .61% for SBI, 1.5% for OTS, 5.1% for FDC
Gateway Lab: 3.8% for SBI, 11.5% for OTS, 4.8% for FDC
Indian River: .26% for SBI, .79% for OTS, .88% for FDC
Kuumba Academy: 0% for SBI, 2.0% for OTS, 2.9% for FDC
Las Americas Aspiras Academy: 0% for SBI, 0% for OTS, 0% for FDC
Lake Forest: .32% for SBI, .48% for OTS, .95% for FDC
Laurel: .84% for SBI, 88% for OTS, . for FDC 2135, 2.6% for FDC
Milford: .62% for SBI, 1.9% for OTS, 1.3% for FDC
MOT: 1.0% for SBI, 0% for OTS, 0% for FDC
Moyer Academy: 0% for SBI, 2.2% for OTS, 17.2% for FDC
Newark Charter: .17% for SBI, .39% for OTS, .11% for FDC
New Castle County Vo-Tech: .15% for SBI, . for OTS, . for FDC
Odyssey: 0% for SBI, .71% for OTS, .14% for FDC
Polytech: .17% for SBI, .17% for OTS, .09% for FDC
Positive Outcomes: 1.7% for SBI, 4.2% for OTS, 1.7% for FDC
Prestige Academy: 5.6% for SBI, 10.1% for OTS, 23.3% for FDC
Providence Creek: 1.1% for SBI, 5.9% for OTS, .28% for FDC
Reach Academy For Girls: .85% for SBI, .85% for OTS, 1.3% for FDC
Red Clay: .80% for SBI, 2.4% or OTS, .23% for FDC
Seaford: .51% for SBI, 1.3% for OTS, 2.8% for FDC
Smryna: .34% for SBI, .68% for OTS, .84% for FDC
Sussex Academy: .24% for SBI, .48% for OTS, 0% for FDC
Sussex Tech: .13% for SBI, .26% for OTS, .07% for FDC
Thomas Edison: .94% for SBI, .13% for OTS, 1.2% for FDC
Woodbridge: .43% for SBI, 1.1% for OTS, 1.2% for FDC
STATEWIDE AVERAGE Substantiated Bullying Reports: .47%
STATEWIDE AVERAGE Alleged Bullying Reports: 1.2%
STATEWIDE AVERAGE Offensive Touching: 2.0%
STATEWIDE AVERAGE Fighting/Disorderly Conduct: 1.9%
While this may seem like very odd data, it tells us many things. About half the schools report fighting as fighting, while the other half reports it as offensive touching. So which is it, and why is it not uniform across all schools in Delaware? Both are reportable offenses in Delaware. And how many schools aren’t reporting anything? It sounds like something needs to be put in place to hold these schools in check. Unfortunately, relying on the Delaware DOE to accurately convey data to the general public is a lesson in futility. But the schools have a responsibility in this as well. Parents need to know which schools are safe for their children, and this data is underrepresented and does not give a clear picture. To be continued I’m sure…