BULLYING-HARASSMENT STATISTICS LOW AT CALHOUN MIDDLE-HIGH SCHOOL – WV Has Tough Policies Against Bullying

By Bob Weaver, Hur Herald

Schools face what seem to be endless challenges in delivering education.

West Virginia has one of the most comprehensive anti-bullying laws in the country, its scope being increased in 2011.

Violators of the anti-bullying policy can receive a penalty of a 10-day suspension from school, or other increased penalties.

A new study says nearly half of student bullying/harassment incidents in West Virginia’s public schools occur in middle schools.

Bullying may not be a significant issue at Calhoun Middle-High School, according to principal Kelli Whytsell, who released in school year 2013-14 there were two bullying-harassment incidents processed under the anti-bullying/harassment policy.

West Virginia Department of Education’s Office of Research said that 2,957 students were referred for disciplinary action for bullying or harassment behaviors. Seventy-five percent of these students were male.

The state report said that 29 percent of such incidents occurred in high schools and 24 percent occurred in elementary schools.

School systems are reluctant to release public information regarding discipline, in-school suspensions or out-of-school suspensions, but sources close to school systems say maintaining discipline is a significant problem.

CM-HS Principal Whytsell said that during school year 2013-14, the school board expelled 11 students.

Whytsell declined a request regarding how many students were recommended for expulsion in 2013-14, but not expelled.

About eight students who entered Calhoun Middle-High School and Arnoldsburg Elementary after hours were not expelled following court action by parents.

Whytsell declined to confirm how many of the 11 expulsions were linked to alcohol/drug issues vs. behavioral problems.

In past years, high-profile incidents that appeared to be bullying, harassment, hazing or battery in Calhoun schools were denied by the school system as “horseplay,” some of them ending in civil suits by parents, who were compensated for damages.

The Calhoun Board of Education is among some WV county systems that vote on expulsions in executive or closed session, using legal advice to not follow the WV Open Meetings Act.

While the student being proposed for expulsion is not revealed, using a code number, there is no public information if students are being expelled at board meetings, the system saying the policy is to protect confidentiality.

Attorneys for the school system say the secret vote, unless parents request an open hearing, is valid and based on a WV court decision.

Bullying and harassment has increased in frequency nationwide using social media.

In some states cyper-bulling has become an issue, particularly related to privacy rights of students.

While definitions vary, cyber-bullying is at its core harassment – any aggressive behavior, insults, denigration, impersonation, exclusion, and activities related to hacking against a person or persons – done repeatedly over a period of time, according to the Pew Research Center.

The worst consequences are death and self-harm, as in the 2013 case of 12-year-old Rebecca Ann Sedwick, who committed suicide after a group of middle-school students barraged her with text messages urging her to kill herself.