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More than policies are needed for safe schools

March 22, 2017 • Editorial

Roswell schools stands with other school districts in wrangling with school-related bullying and violence for some time, but clearly more can be done [auth] to create safer environments.
Last week, nine months after the Roswell Independent School District adopted new policies to better define and respond to cyberbullying and bullying at school and school-related functions and three years after a student at Berrendo Middle School shot and injured two of his peers, four parents went before the Board of Education to ask for help regarding the physical fights, death threats and verbal harassment affecting their children.
Other parents concerned about bullying attended the meeting, talking outside the building as board members moved on to other topics, and more than 400 people have joined the Parents against Bullying of Roswell Facebook group, recently formed by one of the parent speakers.
The parents addressing the board first sought to work with school officials but felt their concerns were not being dealt with appropriately. At the meeting, they suggested several actions, including requiring schools to notify parents or guardians whenever their children are involved in bullying incidents, not only when their children are the ones being disciplined. Certainly notification is not a solution, but it is one step that could aid parents in identifying problems and developing solutions sooner.
The results of annual state and county surveys of Chaves County high school students would predict conservatively that at least 90 ninth- to 12th-grade students in the area are being harassed or bullied by school peers. As extensive research shows, being subjected to intense bullying makes academic achievement and overall well-being very difficult to attain. How can we expect schools to make significant progress in raising test scores and student achievement until we first ensure that students are in environments where they can concentrate on studies?
State law since 2007 has required all New Mexico school districts and public schools to have anti-bullying policies implemented, but some educators and legislators have sought unsuccessfully in recent years to pass new legislation, saying the existing statute is not sufficient. A 2014 survey found that as many as 80 percent of the state’s 89 school districts were not meeting federal standards for equality and student protections.
As difficult as it can be to change youth behaviors, and even more difficult to change both adult and youth attitudes about violence and aggression, some school districts and cities nationwide are making progress in reducing youth bullying and violence. As research and presentations by educators working with the National Center for School Climate indicate, schools are often the safest places for youth in many U.S. cities.
Experts say that creating safe schools requires comprehensive policies, procedures and programs that involve parents, students, educators, school volunteers, community health and social organizations, and law enforcement. While adequate security, monitoring and disciplinary methods might be a beginning, experts say, these measures are hardly the answer. Some educational leaders say that schools won’t see real changes until they begin to assess and improve the emotional well-being of students with as much zest as they seek to measure and increase reading and math scores.
Many Roswell educators are to be commended for how hard they work to create respectful, caring classrooms and schools, but the only way Roswell students will see the improvement they deserve is if adults acknowledge that much remains to be done.
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Staff writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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2 Responses to More than policies are needed for safe schools

  1. W&M says:

    Ms. Dunlap, thank you for your article highlighting bullying issues in Roswell schools.
    In the Edutopia article, “Anatomy of School Bullying,” Stephen Merrill writes,
    “According to Edutopia contributor Anne O’Brien, it’s critical to develop a clear code of conduct, to empower ‘teachers and especially students to help enforce it,’ and to socialize the message through activities like all-school assemblies and ‘art contests highlighting school values.’ And a broader look at what Edutopia contributors have written on the topic over the course of years reveals a clear theme: the importance of establishing a web of allies, including administrators, students, teachers, parents, and even unaffiliated citizens.” (https://www.edutopia.org/article/anatomy-school-bullying-stephen-merrill)
    In addition to providing some positive approaches to changing the culture of bullying, the article provides an interesting study of where harassment occurs on campuses.

  2. Lisa Dunlap says:

    Thank you for additional information about school anti-bullying efforts and information. The blog post you mention includes a link to the National Center for Education Statistics that produced the report with data about the school locations where bullying occurs most frequently, according to student surveys.

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