Anonymous Reporting System In Place At JPS
Twenty-eight percent of students in grades sixth through 12 have experienced some form of bullying, according to a national survey from 2011 by the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics. Jamestown Public Schools is no exception. Last school year, the district instituted several programs to address concerns of bullying.
The district created an anti-bullying club and an online submission system to anonymously report acts of bullying.
“It’s been a success in terms of reporting. We now have an avenue in terms of reporting. It’s been very successful,” said JPS Superintendent Bret Apthorpe.
According to a 2007 study titled “Bullying and peer victimization at school: Perceptual differences between students and school staff,” middle school students who were surveyed experienced varied types of bullying.
The report said students experienced 44.2 percent of name-calling, 43.3 percent of teasing, 36.3 percent of spreading rumors and 32.4 percent of physical attacks among other categories of bullying.
During an Oct. 10, 2017 Jamestown School Board of Education meeting, community members, students and parents aired out grievances about bullying specifically in Jamestown schools.
“We’ve had a lot of deaths recently in the community and it really just needs to be addressed, like today,” one former student said regarding bullying during the meeting.
At that meeting, Superintendent Bret Apthorpe announced the creation of the reporting system included on the JPS website. Apthorpe and Board President Paul Abbott expressed their empathy for those who spoke out and about any bullying occurring in the district.
“I know it’s a big concern to the board (of education), and to myself and to our whole school family on the issue of bullying and harassment,”Apthorpe said during a Dec. 5, 2017 board meeting at the time.
At the time of the December meeting, there were 85 submissions of reported bullying on the website. Thirty-three of those submissions were proven to be actual incidents, Apthorpe said.
Since then, Apthorpe said the reporting system has been a success. A report was even received over the most recent winter break regarding a bullying incident. The victim stopped attending school because of bullying, but the district was able to connect the student with a counselor. Apthorpe said the reporting system has allowed school officials to more immediately and effectively make that connection.
“We are formally monitoring daily attendance and connecting students who are chronically absent,” he said. “In some cases (the cause of absenteeism) is bullying.”
The Anti-Bullying Club is still continuing its efforts a year later as well. English Teacher Chris Tehan serves as the adviser for the club.
“It’s been going well,” said JHS Principal Mike McElrath. “A couple of students who were there from the beginning have kind of kept things going.”
Recently, the district participated in an anti-bullying campaign in association with the National Bullying Prevention Month of October with support from the Anti-Bullying Club and the high school club known as the Gay Straight Alliance.
A display was created with numerous cutout paper hands with words of kindness written on them and placed in the window of the Crown Street Roasting Company on Third Street.
With the theme of students lending a hand to stop bullying, Jamestown High School collaborated with Chautauqua Tapestry, Chautauqua Mental Health and Hygiene, Community Alliance for Suicide Prevention and the Crown Street Roasting Company to create the display. The window display previously presented a suicide awareness message for the month of September organized by the Community Alliance for Suicide Prevention.
The display featured more than 1,000 paper cutouts in the shape of hands. Each one was signed by a student or multiple students along with the positive messages written on them. The event was organized by Susan Mead, school psychologist,
“(The Anti-Bullying Club) usually (has) one project or another they’re chipping away at at one time,” McElrath said.
Tehan, who as the adviser meets with the Anti-Bullying Club every Thursday, said there has been a positive shift in anti-bullying awareness within the district.
“They’re more conscientious about looking out for each other in some populations,” Tehan said. “There’s been a increase in morale.”
Additionally, the Anti-Bullying Club has various paintings posted throughout the school sporting anti-bullying messages.
While the student led organization focuses primarily on spreading positive messages and awareness, Apthorpe believes the job of educators across the country to is to address the root causes of bullying and mental illness in the youth.
“The mental health crisis and bullying, I weave those two together,” Apthorpe said.
In the high school, students and staff are being trained by the Mental Health Association to be more responsive to mental health. McElrath said 50 individuals have been trained thus far. The goal is to get 20 percent of the student body trained. Members of the Anti-Bullying Club were the initial volunteers for the training.
“A comprehensive understanding of the root causes of cyber bullying and bullying is what we’re trying to find the answer to,” Apthorpe said.