School Board responds to bullying incidents

Candles burn around a poster in front of the Tuesday school board meeting.
Candles burn around a poster in front of the Tuesday, Feb. 12 school board meeting. Earlier that week families held a candlelight vigil in honor of bullying victims. Photo by David Raftrey.

A new bullying policy will be brought before the school board for approval this spring after district mismanagement of a bullying incident earlier this year, according to Palo Alto Unified School District student services coordinator, Brenda Carrillo.

At the PAUSD school board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 12, Carrillo outlined key features to be included in the new bullying policy and presented a report on student perceptions of bullying.

The new bullying policy will standardize the procedure for reporting and handling bullying cases and ensure that the district is compliant with federal and state mandates, according to Carrillo.

“This is a case where we will be better served by having a common method across all of our schools for handling a particular situation,” school board president Dana Tom said.

The district will also work on bullying prevention through educating students about online safety and encouraging students to become up-standers instead of bystanders.

“Studies have shown that bullying can stop in 10 seconds nearly 60 percent of the time when a bystander intervenes,” board member Melissa Baten Caswell said.

According to the Palo Alto Reality Check survey results for middle school students, bullying rates in the PAUSD are low across the district. Nationally, 28 percent of students 12-18 report they were bullied at some point during the school year, according to the national center for education statistics. In the PAUSD an average of only 3.9 percent of  middle school students reporting they were bullied socially once a week or more in 2012. Rates of social bullying in middle school have declined from 5.5 percent in 2008, according to the PARC surveys. Other types of bullying such as physical, electronic and verbal bullying have also decreased.

“We want these numbers to continue to go down,” Carrillo said.

A survey for high school students administered at Gunn High School showed similar low rates of bullying and a pattern of decreasing bullying rates over time.

“Schools can become safer places when schools and the community come together to create cultures of connectedness,” Carrillo said.