Bullying reports on the rise PDF Print E-mail
Written by BILL RYAN Sentinel Staff Writer   
Tuesday, 18 June 2013 09:56
Over the summer, school officials will have a question to ponder: Is bullying in schools on the rise or is it just being reported more often?
In a recent presentation on the annual Shaping Healthy Atmospheres that Promote Education and Safety, Bill Ivoska, Ph.D., said that despite data that suggests children in Wood County feel safer in schools than they did in the previous year's survey, reports of bullying are on the rise.
One of the reasons for the statistical increase in bullying is the possible increase in awareness and the encouragement of school officials to report incidents. By definition, bullying includes action that involves three elements: aggressive acts made with a harmful intent, repetition of these acts and an imbalance of power between the aggressor and the victim.
This includes aggression that is either direct or indirect. It can be expressed in words, in physical abuse or in abusive social relationships.
Ivoska said that in Wood County, bullying was measured on four occasions in two surveys: in February 2010 and 2012 on the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Service Board Youth Survey, as well as in February 2011 and 2013 on the SHAPES survey.
He said in both surveys bullying was described for the students as "an act that is done on purpose ...(where the bully will) use their power to harass or hurt others."
The students were asked how many times in the last 30 days they were bullied.
The data showed the greatest increases in verbal bullying for those in grades seven through nine. There were 33.5 percent of seventh graders in the 2011 survey who reported verbal bullying, while 46.9 percent reported it this year (2010 data showed 34.9 and 36.1 percent in 2012). Similarly, eighth-grade students reporting rose from 32.7 to 42.3 percent in the 2011 and 2013, respectively. For freshmen, the data showed 25.1, 36.6, 33.4 and 42.2 percent for 2010 through 2013, respectively.
There were also increases in physical, cyber and indirect bullying.
Seventh-grade responders were the highest to report bullying of each type.
"This increase could be to a heightened awareness and a greater perception of bullying," Ivoska told a group of educators and other leaders at the meeting last month.
"There are three reasons kids are more likely to be reporting this," he said.
They are:
• there is a real increase in occurrence
• the increase in perception and awareness
• an increase in faculty and student reporting
Of those three factors, Ivoska considers the increase in reporting to be the primary cause of the statistical increase. He says many faculty members had been trained in fall 2011 and spring 2012 at various schools. The faculty were made more aware of the need for students to report, and students were more educated on the topic.
Despite those statistics, Ivoska said there has not been a proportional increase in behavioral problems or reports.
"There are far less incidents coming back down," he said.
In the 2013 survey of students in grades five through 12, 57.9 percent they have not experienced any bullying of any kind, with 4.7 percent saying they are often bullied and 5.7 percent reporting bullying "most of the time."
Statistics show for 2011-12, in the Eastwood, Elmwood, North Baltimore, Northwood, Otsego, Perrysburg, Penta and Rossford schools, there were 237 total incidents as reported by the principals. For 2012-13, there were 86, with Otsego showing the biggest drop from 40 to only seven.
Ivoska said the SHAPES survey gives other mixed signals as the majority of the students feel safer now, fights are down.
"Our community is in transition. Things are changing and hopefully for the better," Ivoska said.
In other areas of the SHAPES report, Ivoska said marijuana use is on the increase. He attributes that to the legalization efforts across the country for both medicinal and recreational use.
Kyle Clark, who heads the Safe Schools, Healthy Students program for the Wood County Educational Service Center, argued that the marijuana issue should not be on the ballot, but rather should be in the hands of the Federal Drug Administration to be governed by the same standards as other drugs.
"To put it in context, we don't vote on any other prescriptions," Clark said.
In other areas of the report Ivoska said "It appears overall as far as mental health we are getting healthier."
He added, "In summary, things are changing and it seems we are healthier and more positive."
It was also noted because of the vast amount of data being collected through SS/HS, Wood County is now seen as a national model.
Kyle Kanuckel, WCESC superintendent, praised everyone's work on the report. "I just applaud the work you do in this community."
 

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