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Bullying, School Safety, and You

The news that the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation (EVSC) has implemented a new visitor policy beginning with the 2014-15 school year has been seen as a positive and necessary step for the future safety of schools and students in Evansville. The new EVSC policy requires that visitors to any Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. to have their 

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The news that the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation (EVSC) has implemented a new visitor policy beginning with the 2014-15 school year has been seen as a positive and necessary step for the future safety of schools and students in Evansville.

The new EVSC policy requires that visitors to any Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. to have their driver's license or a government-issued photo identification card with them. Beginning August 18, new sign-in procedures at all schools will require the visitor to submit their ID to be scanned into the sign-in system. The system, called Raptor, will then take the information on the ID and run several screening checks on the individual, including a background check, a check with the national sex offender database, and checks against several EVSC-centric databases. After the initial registration process, visitors can sign in by presenting their ID, and in turn will be issued a visitor's pass to be scanned at entry and exit from the school. The Raptor system is designed to increase safety in the schools by identifying all visitors and tracking each entering and leaving campus.

While the new EVSC Raptor system helps to ensure greater safety for schools, there still remains a threat to student safety: the bully.

1 in 5 Are Bullied

Bullying is a topic that gains renewed attention at the beginning of every school year. In 2011, 20% of high schoolers reported being bullied at school - that's one out of every five high school students. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly half of bullying incidents took place in school hallways and stairwells, while slightly more than 20 percent took place outside on school grounds. This calls to mind the stereotypical bully who roughed you up on the playground for your lunch money, doesn't it? But make no mistake, today's bully has morphed into a bully who is bolder, more technologically adept, and often more dangerous.

While bullies may be more aggressive in today's school culture, sometimes their victims attempt to take control of the situation by equally aggressive methods. The specter often lurking in the mind of every educator and parent is that of Columbine High School, not to mention other schools around the country which have been in the news for acts of violence resulting from bullying.

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The Role of the Schools

The Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation (EVSC) has established specific policies with regard to bullying in the schools. These policies require a school staff member to immediately report knowledge of threats of violence to an administrator, as well as to direct students to the proper authorities within the system for assistance with personal issues.

Despite conventional advice on how to deal with a bully, merely "standing up to" a bully sometimes doesn't work. Bullies and their victims are often locked into a relationship that threatens to spiral out of control. A bullying situation that has gotten out of hand can put the victim on the defensive in more ways than one. When bullying comes to blows, the onus is often on the victim to prove they did everything they could to diffuse the situation, and that their actions were those of self-defense. When the schools are involved in such a situation, the law in Indiana outlines their liability in a very specific way. The current law in Indiana regarding an assault by one student upon another and for the resulting injuries that can expose the school to liability requires the injured student to prove the following:

  1. The assaulting student had a propensity towards violence;
  2. The school system or teacher was aware of the propensity;
  3. The teacher failed to adequately supervise the class; and
  4. This failure allowed the opportunity for the assault to occur, proximately resulting in injuries to the assaulted student.

The Cyberbully

One of the reasons bullying is more aggressive in today's school culture is due to technology. Smart phones, internet connections, and social media allow bullies to operate in malicious ways, largely because they feel more protected in their activities. According to the Teen Online & Wireless Safety Survey, 81 percent of kids and teens felt it was easier to bully online and get away with it. Nearly one in five have been bullied online and one in ten have bullied online.

The survey also highlights a very telling fact about youth attitudes toward technology and behavior online: nearly 60 percent of those who admitted cyberbullying did so because they felt their victim "deserved it." Among those who were victims of a cyberbully, a majority indicated that their aggressors did so "to be mean," "for fun," or "to show off to their friends." Clearly, the youth culture of today has moved from the playground to cyberspace, where there is a larger audience for their antagonizing and the resulting stakes are higher.

Still, regardless if it's offline or in cyberspace, bullying can be combatted by students and parents alike. By working with the schools to stop bullying and being proactive in our communications with one another, we can stop bullying before it becomes a larger problem.

Combatting Bullies: For Students

  • Tell them to stop. Standing up to a bully should be your first line of defense.
  • If you can't stand up to the bully, walk away and stay away.
  • Talk to an adult about what's going on. This could be a teacher, a parent, or another adult you trust to help.
  • Stay away from areas where the bullying takes place. However, if you're being bullied in the hallways and stairwells at school, avoiding them may not be possible. Tell a teacher.
  • Stay in a group - there is safety in numbers. Bullies are less likely to confront a group.
  • Consider carefully what you post online. If what you post can be misinterpreted or is malicious, rethink posting it. A bully may use it as a reason to bully you.
  • Keep your passwords to your online accounts secure. Don't share them with anyone except your parents.
  • Keep your parents in the loop of what you're doing, online and off. They should be aware of whom you hang out with and the kinds of things you and your friends talk about.

Combatting Bullies: For Parents

  • Learn to recognize the signs of bullying. Kids are notorious for not telling their parents everything, and a sharp-eyed parent can put a stop to bullying before it gets out of hand.
  • Talk to your kids about bullying. Encourage them to come to you if it happens to them.
  • Know their friends.
  • Monitor their technology. This can include friending or following them on social media (while remaining low-key), installing monitoring software on their computer or phone, and encouraging them to share text messages that concern them with you.
  • If bullying has occurred, involve the proper authorities if need be. Most schools have a set of protocols established to deal with all forms of bullying.

Addressing the issues that arise from a bullying situation has become more complex for students, parents, educators, and the legal system. No longer are the bullies confined to the schoolyard. Bullying takes place in our schools, our communities, and even cyberspace; while issues can be resolved long before they get out of hand, bullying sometimes can and does cross the line. If this happens, contacting an attorney is a necessary first step to preserving your rights.

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