Official Delaware Bullying Report Shows Too Many Schools Are Fudging Numbers And Reasons For Bullying

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…

Appoquinimink

12-13     233        73          31.3%

13-14     164        24           14.6%

14-15     237         32           13.5%

15-16     304        35           11.5%

Brandywine

12-13     108        93          86.1%

13-14     63          79           125.4%*

14-15     37          37           100%

15-16     49          21           42.9%

Caesar Rodney

12-13     211        32           15.2%

13-14     118        40           33.9%

14-15     75          14           18.7%

15-16     103        27           26.2%

Cape Henlopen

12-13     42          19           45.2%

13-14     39          13           33.3%

14-15     77          26           33.85

15-16     53          18           34.0%

Capital

12-13     80          28           35.0%

13-14     58          25           65.8%

14-15     51          18           35.3%

15-16     28          15          53.6%

Christina

12-13     130        65           50.0%

13-14     114        38           33.3%

14-15     183        65           47.1%

15-16     134        55           41.0%

Colonial

12-13     248        44           17.7%

13-14     97          37           38.1%

14-15     81          63           77.7%

15-16     116        50          43.1%

Delmar

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%

Indian River

12-13     215        39          18.1%

13-14     150        25          16.7%

14-15     92          21          22.8%

15-16     252        51          20.2%

Lake Forest

12-13     49          37          75.5%

13-14     30          12          40.0%

14-15     34          1             3.0%

15-16     58          12          20.7%

Laurel

12-13     18          23          127.8%*

13-14     37          18          48.6%

14-15     28          12          42.9%

15-16     27          16          59.3%

Milford

12-13     116        20          17.2%

13-14     31          26          83.9%

14-15     37          15          40.5%

15-16     43          23          53.5%

Red Clay

12-13     596        121        20.3%

13-14     453        132        29.1%

14-15     415        102        24.6%

15-16     428        61          14.3%

Seaford

12-13     28          16          57.1%

13-14     17          18           105.9%*

14-15     34          8              23.5%

15-16     40          21          52.5%

Smyrna

12-13     69          13          18.8%

13-14     47          18          38.3%

14-15     57          20          35.1%

15-16     55          19          34.5%

Woodbridge

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%*

Charters: NCC

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%

 

State Totals

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.

bullying5yrreasons

Here is the actual report issued by the Delaware DOE:

 

 

Controversial House Bill 250 Released From House Education Committee

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.

State Rep. Kim Williams Looking To Change “Good Cause” School Choice Options For School Bullying

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: