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Schools wrestle with bullying

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Official says it’s still a front-burner issue

 

By Don Pace

Las Vegas Optic

 

During a briefing on bullying from East side school principals, board member Patrick Romero asked everyone at the board meeting to raise their hand if they had experienced bullying or had bullied. 

 

Every person in the room raised a hand.

 

Even with heightened attention on bullying over the past few years bullying continues. It doesn’t just exist in big school districts around the nation, where the student population can reach into the thousands. It also happens in smaller schools where one would think a closer eye on kid-on-kid violence would make a difference.

 

After hearing some stark numbers about bullying incidents by East district principals, Superintendent Rick Romero said his administration has taken a tough stand against bullying.

 

“From day one, when I got here, we have taken the position that bullying is not acceptable, we are not going to allow it in this district,” Romero said.

 

Romero said the district has to make sure bullying remains a front-burner item.  

 

“We’ve got to make sure that we are ensuring that, when our children come to our schools, they are free of intimidation and harassment in our classrooms,” Romero said.  

 

In one incident, Robertson High School assistant principal Mike Yara told the board, a student has been so disruptive that there aren’t enough rules to cover or punish the willful misbehavior.

 

“When it gets to the point of when Mr. Yara is making a decision with that kind of gravity, that’s a bad situation. That is (multiple) offenses on a child, and the situation should be such that we look at removing that person from the (school) environment,” Romero said.

 

Memorial Middle School principal Manuel Lucero said statistics from the National Center for Education site one-third of all students ages 12 to 18 have been bullied. He went through a long list of the ways children are bullied, including students who pick smaller kids, as well as racial, homophobic and cyber bullying.

 

“That means some kids endure some form of bullying on a daily basis,” Lucero said. He said sixth-grade students nationwide are bullied the most.” 

 

Lucero said many parents don’t recognize bullying behavior; they just see it as kids being kids. He said one of the things they are doing at the middle school is making sure teachers and staff are out in the hallways in force to monitor all activity between classes.

 

“Even if we’re having a staff meeting, when the bell rings we’ll pause and get into the halls so that students feel safe. An e-mail directive has gone out to all teachers that they have to be in the hallways between mods. That’s non-negotiable. How do we know teachers are monitoring hallways? Because we’re there ourselves,” Lucero said. 

Lucero said since he implemented the “all hands” monitoring policy there has been zero incidents in hallways. He said students are also being shown anti-bullying videos, and getting presentations from the district attorneys office and Las Vegas police officers.

 

Lucero said the third time bullying is reported, the student is suspended. He and other principals said each situation is dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

 

“However, in every case councilors will meet with students involved in a particular incident,” Lucero said. 

 

Board member Patrick Romero said most kids who are at the root of the problem would like nothing better than to go home and do nothing.

 

“If we suspend a student, he or she is not going to learn anything at home. Do you realize how much a student loses by being out even one day in a math class or another class that requires a student to be there daily?” Romero asked.

 

Romero wondered if in-school suspension wouldn’t be better for everyone concerned. 

 

Yara defended the Robertson policy, saying that in-school suspension was always the first option.  

  

“That’s the first option I would use for any student, but after so many incidents there’s got to be a consequence. You could walk into any classroom in the high school and ask any student who the number one bully in the school is, and I guarantee you, all the students will have the same answer,” Yara said.

 

Lucero agreed, saying he also disagreed with the notion of coddling one student at the expense of everyone else.

 

“I disagree with you (board member Romero) that it’s better to keep the one kid there disrupting all other 486 kids at my school. I would rather let that kid go home, and teach the other 485. That child has had the same opportunity to learn, and he or she chose to behave badly, and we chose to send that student home. Because these other little kids deserve to learn, and if that kid chose to misbehave, then that kid can go home and get on the Internet or find another way to learn,” Lucero said.

 

Lucero said there is no in-school suspension at Memorial Middle School.             

 

Romero said he appreciates all the things administrators do, “I’m just trying to say there might be other options.”

 

Montaño said even though students are sent home, to some degree the district is still responsible for their welfare. 

 

Associate Superintendent LeeEtte Quintana said when students act out there is always a reason behind it.

 

 “We should be doing more to find out what that reason is, and before they are suspended we should have a plan in place to find out what we are going to do about it when they come back. Those are the kinds of things we will be talking about with administrators and counselors,” Quintana said.