Pocahontas school officials talk about bullying problem
Dunmore, W.Va. –
School bullying is physical, verbal, or emotional abuse which occurs when a child is in school. Bullying is detrimental to students’ well-being and development. According to a study by Yale, bullying victims are at least 70 percent more likely to commit suicide than non-victims.
Pocahontas County High School principal Tom Sanders says bullying is a widespread problem.
“I think that you have bullying in every school in West Virginia and the United States,” he said. “I don’t see it being any worse than any other school. I think that we definitely, of course, have it, from time to time and I’m sure that it probably sometimes happens on the bus, sometimes in the hallways. It can even happen sometimes in a classroom whenever students are whispering to each other or talking to each other.”
Sanders says bullying often starts with teasing.
“I think a lot of times it starts out with somebody teasing somebody or they’re teasing each other and then it just escalates into worse – more of a harassment or more of what you call bullying. It all depends on the victim. If it’s bothering the victim in any way, shape or form, then we have to take action into that.
“If they’re just having fun with each other – like when I grew up, I had a nickname. I still have that nickname when I go back to my hometown, That didn’t bother me that I had that nickname back then. But for some students, that may have been teasing or harassment to where that would have bothered them, the nickname that’s been given them, maybe, by some other students. Again, it depends on how the student that is being teased accepts it or feels that it’s bothering them and then it needs to be addressed if it’s bothering them.”
The principal says school staff are trained to recognize bullying.
“We’ve had in-services in picking up and watching for signs of bullying or listening – being better listeners in the classroom , in the hallways, for any kind of problems students may be having. Your teachers are trained to watch for, bus drivers are even trained to watch for. You just have to try to do your best to stop it or encourage your students to come and turn in that they’re being bullied.”
Pocahontas County Schools Superintendent C.C. Lester talks about an anti-bullying program started following the mass murder at Columbine High School in Colorado.
“I think bullying is a problem in the schools, nationwide,” he said. “You see it all the time on the news. You read it in the journals, the websites. It’s constantly an ongoing battle. As you may be aware, last year we brought in the Rachel’s Challenge. It’s a direct spin-off from the Columbine. All students were trained in that. All teachers trained in it. Now, we have these Rachel’s Challenge clubs in the schools. But it was amazing to me to go to the high school and run across a girl, who had been known to be a bully, and she was crying – a senior – and said ‘I saw myself in this.'”
The superintendant says it is difficult to measure the effectiveness of anti-bullying programs.
“I don’t know that you can measure it,” he said. “I don’t know that you can measure it. I did hear a lot of good things about from parents and kids.”
Lester says a recent problem with school attendance might be associated with bullying.
“My biggest concern right now is a lot of attendance issues,” he said. “To be honest with you, I haven’t heard a lot about bullying this year. The biggest issue I have up here is the attendance issue. I think that a lot of your days’ absences can be referred back to bullying. Students are bullied and they don’t want to come back to school.”
The West Virginia Department of Education launched the ‘It Does Matter’ anti-bullying campaign last fall. Schools in seven counties have joined the program. Lester says he sent personnel for training in the program and is considering joining Pocahontas County schools.