Behind The Bullying Part II
What is "behind" bullying in Maine schools?
A number of recent events across the state and country have sparked conversation about how parents and schools should be doing more to combat bullying and harassment. The question: How?
NEWS CENTER decided to dig deeper into the statistics in the state. The Department of Education requires all "substantiated claims" of bulling to be reported to the state. Our investigation found a number of schools across Maine have not reported any instances over the last three years, despite attempts from the D.O.E. to improve reporting systems and provide more extensive guidelines.
The Maine Department of Eduction has a specific definition of bullying that is used when investigating claims. Here's what they say:
"Bullying" includes, but is not limited to, a written, oral or electronic expression or a physical act or gesture or any combination thereof directed at a student or students that:
(1) Has, or a reasonable person would expect it to have, the effect of:
(a) Physically harming a student or damaging a student's property; or
(b) Placing a student in reasonable fear of physical harm or damage to the student's property;
(2) Interferes with the rights of a student by:
(a) Creating an intimidating or hostile educational environment for the student; or
(b) Interfering with the student's academic performance or ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities or privileges provided by a school; or
(3) Is based on a student's actual or perceived characteristics identified in Title 5, section 4602 or 4684-A, or is based on a student's association with a person with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics or any other distinguishing characteristics and that has the effect described in subparagraph (1) or (2).
"Bullying" includes cyberbullying.
What students are saying
We sat down with a group of high school students to talk about what bullying is like in their school.
Five teens from Bangor said bullying happens every single day in their high school. Over the last three years, Bangor High did not report a single instance of bullying to the state. Students claimed that administrators often turn a blind eye to the issue. Some reflected on the increasing pressures they are facing both in the hallways and on social media. Many of them are student leaders pushing for change.
Behind the Bullying: Part I
What schools, DOE have to say
'We have to talk about it and we have report it so that we can make sure the culture is that it isn't tolerated.'
In a sit-down interview with Superintendent of Bangor Schools Betsy Webb, she admitted that bullying happens in the city's schools. Webb, speaking only for Bangor, said that the lack of reporting is because every incident varies in severity and many are addressed at a lower level. We should note that Bangor Schools did report two serious incidents at one of their elementary schools. Webb is adamant that there are countless resources in place, but called the issue "layered and complex." You can watch more of what she had to say below.
Behind The Bullying Part II
The Maine Department of Education would not go on camera for an interview. A spokesperson did respond to our questions via email. "There is consistent two-way communication between the Maine DOE and Maine's public schools in regards to addressing anti-bullying efforts," the spokesperson said. The Department said much of that communication is through a single Student Assistance Coordinator. That position was added in 2013. A new research project was launched this fall to look into the effectiveness of current laws and policies.
How does your school stack up?
Search the document below to see how many instances were reported at your area school in the last three years. (If you do not find your school on this list, it means they have not reported.)
RELATED STORY: Ten signs your kids is being bullied
Keep the conversation going
Hundreds of you have shared your personal stories about how bullying has impacted you. Keep the conversation going here.