Concerns of Bullying in our Schools

South San Francisco, CA    October 8, 2014bully-free-zone-sign-k-4060

Statistics show over 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year with 1 out of 10 students dropping out of school because of repeated bullying.  Further 1 in 4 teachers see nothing wrong with bullying and will intervene only 4% of the time.  Why?

“Teachers often get frustrated because they truly do care about their students and want to help stop bullying in their classrooms, but they don’t know what to do,” Deborah Temkin, the U.S.  Department of Education bullying prevention coordinator said in a news release. And often the taunting and bullying can be seen as something kids have done since the days of Cain and Able and there is the hope they will out grow this behavior in time.

But time is not something a bullied kid might have on their side as continued degrading tears at the very fabric of confidence which is what our kids need to develop for success in life. When is the right time to intervene and what is the best approach?  The US Department of Education continues to update information on navigating what appears to be a crisis across the country. Our own El Camino High School PTSA offered an Anti Bullying Presentation to our students yesterday with another presentation to parents last evening which highlights our community awareness of this issue.

But  we have to ask, why do kids pick on other kids? What is behind the bully’s mindset? PBS Kids looks at some of the reasons a student might find themselves a target.

  • He’s a different size — smaller or bigger — than most of other kids their age.
  • She falls into some type of “minority”: African-American kids at a mostly white school, girls in a shop class that’s crowded with boys, etc.
  • There’s something that makes him stand out, like a disability that makes him walk or talk differently, or even just his name.
  • She gets anxious or upset very easily.
  • He doesn’t have any or many friends and is usually alone.
  • She doesn’t have a lot of confidence and doesn’t seem like she’ll stand up for herself.
  • Some kids get bullied as a result of a single thing that happened, like an embarrassing moment that took place in front of other people.
  • Usually, once someone is singled out by a bully, other people will know that person is a target and start bullying her or him, too.

Because bullying does not stop once we become adults it is important that we educate our children on how to handle these situations, to give them the needed tools to take with them through out life. Anyone on the internet reading comments on news articles and blogs can see the anti-social degrading bullying being done by adults that sit anonymously behind a computer screen.  Those cruel comments can still sting, no matter the age.

And while it is important to educate our kids to be bully proof, we also need to hold accountable those kids who do the bullying. And that is up to the adults, the parents, teachers and administrators.  We have to let our students know we have a zero-tolerance for this type of behavior and their actions will be met with discipline.

Our School Board Trustee Maurice Goodman expressed his deep upset over an incident in one of our schools where bullying of one student came in the form of racism. The incident occurred last year and according to Trustee Goodman it has continued into this year, and by other students.  This situation was to be investigated by our District Administrator Alejandro Hogan this past week, Goodman reported. Goodman’s frustration came through clear in his Facebook post which he made public;

‘I have officially lost confidence and respect for South San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Alejandro Hogan for not protecting our children and providing them a safe learning environment from harassment. This video explains some of the pain and anger associated with a noose and the word nigger and neither should be common place in our schools. His ignorance, insensitivity and lack of leadership makes one wonder what he thinks the “South” in South San Francisco stands for. Get a clue or get gone!’

Goodman’s concern is not only for the bullying but for the racism behind the words and actions he has heard were displayed by one or more of our students to another and on more than one occasion. In addition Goodman told us he has heard from others that one of our coaches used the ‘N’ word in relationship to another team. These are serious allegations and need to be investigated and resolved immediately.

School Board Trustee Candidate Pat Murray responded to Goodman’s post;

‘Students need to feel safe or they can’t learn. It is unacceptable for ANY child in our schools to be bullied especially where there is bigotry involved. We need age appropriate, anti-bullying programs from k-12 to teach our students tolerance and conflict resolution. It makes me sad that one of our kids has suffered in this way.’

We also need to know our District reflects our community values and supports our zero-tolerance for bullying and racism and will be swift to initiate a thorough investigation of these and any accusations.  Due to the confidentiality of the minors involved we do not have all the facts available to share.  Superintendent Hogan did respond by phone to advise a third party investigation would be take place once a formal complaint was complete. In a follow up email sent this statement addressing these concerns publicly.

‘We are in the process of receiving an official complaint regarding allegations of certain incidents that occurred last year surrounding a student in one of our high schools.  The subject of this complaint can be very emotional.  However, as superintendent of the district I must remain calm and level-headed before jumping to conclusions for the benefit of all students and staff in the district.  

I assure the students, the parents and the employees of the district that we have a zero tolerance policy for incidents of bulling or racism in our schools .  Any allegations will be thoroughly investigated by a professional third-party investigator.  This independent investigator will report his/her findings and I will address this situation appropriately.  My duty as the highest ranking administrator in the district is to act judiciously.  My record in the district is exemplary when dealing with inappropriate behavior against students.  My role is to protect and advocate for students at all times.  I will continue to do that with all the information that I need at hand.  

Please understand that I do not protect or cover injustices.  I know firsthand about discrimination and profiling because it has happened to me and to members of my family.  I hope this clarifies my position and the district’s position.

 Unfortunately, at this time I cannot comment about the details of the allegations in order not to jeopardize a fair investigation.’

 -Alejandro Hogan, Superintendent

Everything South City will be following the progress of this investigation closely and we will provide updates as they become available.


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