Waukee’s Stand Against Bullying

February 9, 2018

Walking down a school hallway is a simple task for most people. They put their right foot in front of their left, and maybe talk to a friend or get lost in their thoughts while walking. Unfortunately, for more than just a few Waukee High School students, traversing the hallways is anything but easy.  The bell rings, their blood runs cold, and they dread walking out of class. The hallway is a big undertaking, walking from class to class feels so much bigger and scarier than it needs to be. Bullying takes away a young person’s sense of identity, security, and most importantly their sense of safety. For bullied students, they worry about who is walking behind them or who is just around the corner. These young people will forever remember their high school years–just not the way they wanted.

Studies show that bullying often causes depression, isolation, excessive absences, and poor academic performance.  It is often believed that bullying is a right of passage, something that everyone goes through, or something that is there to make you tougher. The reality is that bullying is something that can have horrible long-term effects, and it’s something that as a school needs to be address. WHS has an anti-bullying policy, but there are significant opportunities for improvement. The Anti-Bullying/Harassment Policy for Waukee Community School is as follows: “ If you feel you are being bullied write down the details [like] the date, the time, where it happened, exactly what happened, who was involved, who was there to witness the incident, what your response was both then and later, and how the bully responded and how this made you feel.”

After all of the steps above have been completed, you will meet with a school counselor.  He or she will talk with both parties to determine if bullying occurs. If the counselor believes that bullying/harassment has occurred, they will talk to the parents of both students and consequences as well as safety measures will be set in place. In the instance that bullying persists, a Vice principal will get involved. Following the Vice Principal’s review of the incident, a determination will be made regarding the involvement of a district investigator. The district investigator’s review will establish the student’s consequences. The bully will have consequences up to and including suspension and expulsion. “The bullying and harassment policy here is very simple. It’s just that it can’t happen. We are bound by Iowa law that states very clearly that schools must intervene when they know about a situation of bullying,” Mrs.Roland, assistant Vice Principal said.

Bullying does happen in our school, it might not be very visible, but it is there. One of the common misinterpretations is that if you tell a counselor, nothing will be done. If you come to the office you will be supported, you will be protected, they will do their best to stop what is happening. The system does have area for growth, but our counselors and our vice principals do want to help, they do care, and they will do everything in there power to protect you.

The school’s bullying policies are not infallible, but it is highly recommended that you report to the office if you see, hear, or are the victim of bullying. One of the areas of growth that are seen in the bullying/harassment policy is that during the admin investigation (when the counselors are debating whether it is bullying) that there isn’t much protection around the child being hurt. As I talked to the counselors and Vice Principals it became clear that there are resources for you to use during the investigation they just need to be communicated better.

The main thing that needs to happen here is improved communication between the student and the counselor. Counselors need to make the child aware that there are options to keep them safe if they would like to utilize them. The child needs to feel comfortable enough to share their needs with the counselor. It’s a very simple fix to what could have been a very big issue. One of the other areas of improvement is the communication about punishment between the student and the counselor. Because staff are not allowed  to release other students’ information including consequences, students are not able to know if the person harassing them was punished. it is important that we share with the student that the bullier did indeed have a consequence.

“I would say our biggest role as counselors is supporting the person who feels like they’re being targeted. [And] listening to their story making sure they know they’re supported and know that we are going to follow up with them in a couple days,”

Our school does have things to work on but reporting bullying is one of the best things you can do. Even though it seems like bullying might not be as abundant in WHS, we should not take that as a victory because students are still suffering. As a school district, we need to send a message that this is a safe place for everyone regardless of their ethnicity, religious preference, sexual orientation, gender identity or socio-economic status. We must show the students that are suffering that this school is one they can count on to protect them. As a school, we must stand united together against bullying. As a school we can do better, we should do better, and we must do better.  

 

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