Harrison Hills bids to reduce bullying

CADIZ The Harrison Hills Board of Education at its last meeting heard a report from Harrison East Elementary Principal Sandy Leggett on efforts to prevent bullying incidents through the Olweus program.

She noted that among issues that students and staff deal with are the need to properly identify what bullying is and how to react. She noted that bullying is not conflict between children of equal power or status, nor is it rough and tumble play.

“It is an intentional, deliberate act, usually repeated behavior which involves a power imbalance, and what we struggle with all the time is the definition of bullying,” she said, adding that the instances of reported bullying normally show a sharp increase just after the program is introduced while pupils and staff are determining what is improper behavior.

“Part of the program is instructing and educating the public, the parents, the students and the staff on exactly what bullying really is,” she said.

The program was first introduced in spring of 2010 as a pilot program in the middle school.

“We saw really impressive results just in approximately six months,” she said, adding that following consolidation it was implemented throughout the district. It was started 2011 at Harrison North and East and January at the junior/senior high school.

The process calls for tracking of bullying activity and monthly analysis during two years, but Leggett provided initial reports of behavioral incidents.

From October to November Harrison East saw an average of 15 reports per month. December through March saw an increase of reporting, leading to an average of 26 reports per month and April through September saw a decrease with an average of three reports per month.

“Students became more comfortable with the reporting process,” she said, noting that instances of harassment and intimidation decreased rapidly.

At Harrison North, the number of discipline reports remained the same October through February, with an increase in March and a decrease April through October. The junior/senior high school saw a similar pattern, with a decrease in reports October through January, an increase February and March and a decrease April and May with an average of 16 reports.

Bert Tharp, dean of students for the past nine months, said he has had no reports of repeated behavior yet. He noted that the most important aspect of the program is that students see consistent responses from the staff. He and Tharp noted that verbal bullying have been the most numerous reports.

Leggett added that class meeting will continue.

“We feel that is among the most important parts of the program for all levels,” she said, adding that tracking of bully behavior and involvement of parents and community will continue.

DeFrank can be reached at rdefrank@timesleaderonline.com