Addressing bullying

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It’s good to see Las Vegas City school officials grappling with the problem of bullying. Not only are they taking the matter seriously, but they’re being open about how the problem exists, persists and must be addressed.

Superintendent Richard Romero is right to make it a top priority. Bullying isn’t a “kids will be kids” issue; at best, it’s a form of harassment, at worst it’s, well, terrorism. In a few cases, it even results in someone’s death.

The physical and emotional damage that bullying imposes upon a young person can be devastating, and school officials — from the teachers to the principals to the district’s top officials — must have a zero tolerance for such misbehavior.

According to district data, there have been 173 incidents of bullying reported at East’s schools so far this year. The highest number of reports, at Sierra Vista Elementary and Memorial Middle School, aren’t necessarily indicative of more bullying in those locations; instead, these two schools appear to be taking the problem more seriously, so more incidents are being reported. That’s a big first step toward controlling the problem.

At a school board meeting last week, the discussion turned to the question of how to handle bullies. School board member Patrick Romero raised a concern that suspending a child who is bullying others may be counterproductive, since the child may want nothing more than go home and do nothing, and thereby falling behind in his or her studies.

Romero wondered if in-school suspension might be a better option. Apparently, that’s the first step taken at Robertson High School, but Memorial Middle School Principal Manuel Lucero disagreed. He said he doesn’t use in-school suspension, contending that keeping them at school simply disrupts learning for the other students. He believes it’s best to just send them home.

To that, board member Ramon “Swoops” Montaño pointed out the district still has a responsibility for the welfare of children even if they are sent home.

It’s a tough problem to address, but we believe the health and safety of our children must be the top priority. The welfare of the bullying child must be secondary.

In the adult world, harassment and threats against another are simply not tolerated. Should it be any different at our schools, where the victims of such behavior are all the more vulnerable?