The Salt Lake School Board has not complied with a new state law that required adoption of a bullying policy by September 1, 2009, says Will Carlson. Mr. Carlson, a Salt Lake School Board candidate, who is challenging the incumbent Doug Nelson, has made school safety one of his top educational issues for his campaign and helped draft and worked with Rep. Carol Moss (D-Salt Lake) as sponsor in passing the Bullying and Hazing law during the 2008 Utah legislative session that requires all local school districts to adopt a bullying policy.
While serious violent crime has gone down in schools nationwide, the Youth Violence Project has stated that “Bullying at school is a pervasive problem that affects millions of students every year. Of those who were bullied, a subgroup also reported being physically injured (bruise, cut, bloody nose, etc.) by the bullying. Because bullying is so commonplace and ranges so widely in severity, its importance is often overlooked.” Bullying is among the most frequently reported discipline problem in schools, with about a quarter of high school students being bullied. This figure increases to over a third of students being bullied in middle and junior high school.
Mr. Nelson, the current School Board member, indicated today that he, “shares Mr. Carlson’s concern regarding bullying in our schools, and wish(ed) to make sure that cases that the recent tragic one in Massachusetts do not occur here.” He said, “I agree that there should be a zero-tolerance attitude towards bullying, and that all of our students deserve to attend school in an environment which feels safe, and is conducive to learning.” A representative of the Salt Lake School District, Shannon Andersen, Student Services Director, responded to Mr. Carlson’s concern earlier today saying that the school district has a district, evidence-based, curriculum training program, “Steps to Respect” that is taught by school counselors throughout the district. According to the Deseret News, the Utah State Board of Education since at least 2006 has required schools to address bullying or lose their Safe and Drug Free Schools funding which amounted to $190,000 for Salt Lake City schools. Nevertheless it took, the State School Board , itself, 14 months after the 2008 State law deadline of September 1, 2008 to issue its own bullying and hazing policy.
Mr. Carlson stated that “Unfortunately, in a review of Salt Lake School District’s policies, the term bullying only appears in one section which indicates a student may be suspended for up to five days.” Additionally, he discovered the policies contained “No victim resources…(and that) no other discipline or education is offered or suggested in the policy or procedures.” Mr. Carlson is concerned believing that “One of the results (of this omission) is that student safety depends on the involvement of each individual teacher or administrator. Some children may be bullied in one classroom with the same behavior that would be prohibited in the classroom next door. Without clear and basic standards that everyone must follow, no student is adequately protected.” Rep. Moss said earlier this week she would be “surprised if Salt Lake District did not have a policy on bullying, but plans to contact them and see if they have a policy that is in compliance with the law passed in 2008.”
For any parent or student who have concerns about bullying in schools, The Riley Hospital for Children, Indianpolis, Indiana, purported to be among the best hospitals for children in the country, has a good website to links for additional information and resources regarding bullying.