Back to School: Bullying
Unfortunately, back to school means back to bullying for many area students.
“She grabbed me by the back of my hair and pulled me down to the ground,” one middle school student named Jane recalled.
“My trumpet fell so I picked it up and that's when she ran up to me and pulled me and started beating me,” another middle school student named Tianna said.
"I personally have been sexually assaulted four times in one year in this district,” middle school student Hope said.
These stories of anguish and heartbreak are coming crashing back as kids and parents start a new school year with the same old fears.
"She was in pain emotionally and physically. She's scared to walk outside, go just across the street to the store, she can't play with her friends on the same block,” the mother of a middle school student told us.
It's these stories that keep Beth Tidd Martinez at the Anti-Defamation League busy.
“I would hope that schools are doing their due diligence. It is important for schools to be reporting incidents of bullying,” Martinez said.
In fact, it’s the law. Last year several local school districts tracked more than a hundred bullying incidents each on school grounds. Many of the incidents were physical.
Punishments range from in-school suspension to criminal charges.
“I know some parents get frustrated because the school doesn't necessary tell them what happens like to the aggressor when a student is a target but there are laws that protect those students for their own privacy,” Martinez said.
There are also laws that bar a school from taking action if the bullying exists only online.
“So then that's something that parents need to address,” Martinez said.
Martinez says parents can deal with a situation like that either with the social media site or the police.
Clinical psychologist Rudy Nydegger blames the apparent increase in bullying on social media.
“[Bullying has] always been there probably always will be but it has gotten worse in recent years,” Nydegger said. “Because of the easy access of social media and the kind of anonymity that's involved with it."
Anti-bullying advocates urge parents to manage their kids' social media sites but they say schools need to take the lead as well.
“We think about assemblies and hand outs and things like that as important kind of symbolic things to do but that's not where the really effective work happens,” Schenectady City School District Superintendent Larry Spring said.
Spring says instead teachers use anti-bullying themes in everyday assignments.
“You know we have some pro-social curricula in place, we use bullying prevention programs that are research based,” Spring said.
Martinez says 79 schools completed the No Place For Hate program last year including 14 in our area. But she wants to get more elementary schools on board.
“And so that we can sort of change our world. And imagine a different society and a different world for our students and for the rest of us,” Martinez said.