New Albany-Floyd County schools address issue of bullying - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

New Albany-Floyd County schools address issue of bullying

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Kathy Goodknight Kathy Goodknight
Jessica Waters Jessica Waters

NEW ALBANY, IN (WAVE) - All too often, we hear unfortunate instances of school children being bullied. It's become a hot button issue in schools not only across the country, but here in Kentuckiana. So what are schools doing to deal with bullying? WAVE 3 is working for you to find out.

We've received several calls and e-mails in our newsroom with reports of bullying. Most recently, a viewer came to us saying his daughter was being bullied at a school in New Albany, IN. So we went to Hazelwood Middle School to get answers and see what the district is doing to address the issue.

"If they don't feel safe, if they don't feel wanted or welcome, they're not going to learn," said Jessica Waters, principal of Hazelwood Middle School.

But a viewer recently told WAVE 3 his daughter who goes to Hazelwood Middle is being bullied. He claims his daughter was threatened last week and he wasn't satisfied when he called the school.

"There was an allegation that something was here," Waters said. "When that happens, we search, because I want my students to be safe. Nothing was found."

Waters says 72 bullying incidents have been reported in the 2010-11 school year, a number that Waters said is down from last year.

"If a student is found to be bullying, we talk to the student that says that they've been bullied. We also talk to the actual bullier. We talk to them separately," Waters said.

Over at Scribner Middle School, Kathy Goodknight has counseled students for the past decade. Her focus is bullying.

"Our belief is that just as a police department can't eliminate crime, we can't eliminate bullying," said Goodknight.

According to Goodknight, there is a corporation wide bully prevention plan.

"We first want to start with awareness and make sure that the child who is participating in bullying behavior aware that his behavior is not tolerated. If we get another report, then it moves to increasing empathy with the bully," said Goodknight. "We want him to understand how his repeated behavior is affecting others. We notify parents at that level and let them know that if it's reported again, social privileges will begin to be removed."

Goodknight says if a child is threatened, it moves to another level. 

"As well as in the case of threats, where a child is being threatened, we would move to a disciplinary issue where the principal might issue in school suspension out of school suspension, those kinds of things," Goodknight said.

Goodknight likened the support system of child to a tripod.

"A child having a tripod of reinforcements. The school, their peer group and the family," Goodknight said. "If we can stay connected, the problems that children experience socially in school can be addressed more readily."

Goodknight says in a 2008 survey of Scribner students, nearly 10 % reported being bullied once a week or more. With just over 7% two or three times a month.

She anticipates those numbers to remain the same this year, but she expects schools to be able to catch bullying sooner.

"Our hard work is making sure we're teaching those who witness bullying to step in and stand up for victims," Goodknight said.

Goodknight says if your child appears unusually sad or withdrawn, you should call their school. She also says don't tell your child to fight back as that might entice the bully.

Conversely, Goodknight says if you suspect your child might be a bully, call their school. Goodknight says communication between parents and the school is important. Goodknight says parents of bullies should develop child empathy. They should have the child write notes of apology or have your child call the victim and apologize.

Jefferson County Public Schools is hosting three "Step up to Bullying" workshops to learn more about bullying and its impact on children and youth. The first session is Tuesday April 19 at 6 p.m. at Gheens Academy. The second session is Thursday, April 21 also at Gheens. Both sessions are in FLEX Room B at 4425 Preston Highway. A third session will be held on April 28 at 6 p.m. at the Seneca High School Theatre, 3510 Goldsmith Lane. For more information, call (502) 485-3710.

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