The Bismarck School Board took the right approach Monday night when it promised to review bullying policies in the district.
A number of parents and residents attended the board meeting to support a mother who is unhappy with how the district has been handling her daughter’s problems with bullying.
Kristin Wentz-Krumwiede told the board that parents and students aren’t informed of their rights as victims. In an earlier interview with the Tribune, Wentz-Krumwiede said while she appreciated efforts by the district to help her daughter, she felt she was kept in the dark during the investigation of the bullying. Wentz-Krumwiede wishes she had been more informed of what steps were being taken.
Wentz-Krumwiede’s concerns apparently hit a nerve as she went to social media to tell her story. A Facebook group was formed to support Wentz-Krumwiede’s daughter called Support our Students. Some of those attending Monday night’s meeting wore T-shirts that read "#theirvoices" and spoke in favor of policy changes.
School Board President Karl Lembke promised that the board was committed to reviewing the issue and considering policy changes or new policies. In an earlier email to the Tribune, Bismarck Superintendent Tamara Uselman wrote: "If a single child is bullied, then bullying is a problem."
So it appears the school district is taking the issue seriously. Bullying has been in the spotlight for some time. Schools have been taking a variety of steps to create awareness of the problem and have students and parents report bullying when it occurs. The digital world has seen new ways for students to be harassed and tormented by their peers. Old-fashioned hallway bullying also continues.
It’s often a difficult problem to resolve. Proving someone has been bullying others isn’t easy if there aren’t witnesses or evidence. The school district has to respect the rights and privacy of all involved as an investigation is conducted. They have to sort through the statements of all involved. Some bullies can be cunning and tough to catch.
That doesn’t mean we give up on the problem.
Wentz-Krumwiede and her daughter came forward and that was the right thing to do. The school board and administrators can take a hard look at ways of improving how they handle bullying. Communication appears to be an area that needs a look. Also, can more be done to identify bullies and take action to correct their behavior.
Bullying has always existed, but over the years it has seemed to have gotten more extreme. A survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics in 2014-15 found about 20 percent of students ages 12 to 18 reported being bullied. Of those, 13.3 percent reported being made fun of, called names or insulted; 12.2 percent said they were made the subject of rumors; 3.9 percent were threatened with harm; 5.1 percent reported being pushed, shoved, tripped or spit on; 2.5 percent said someone tried to make them do things they didn't want to do; 5 percent reported being purposely excluded; and 1.8 percent had property destroyed on purpose.
None of these things should happen to students.
Hopefuly, the Bismarck School Board can find ways to improve policies to combat bullying. The board’s discussion should involve administrators, parents, students and the community. The more light that can be shed on the problem the more likely that solutions can be found. Parents and students should be commended for coming forward and now it’s time to find solutions.