District Targets Bullying with Anonymous Reports
Wills, Rick, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Tommy Radziminski, 12, a sixth-grader at Hampton Middle School, says some of the bullies at his school keep up their act simply because they are never reported.
"We handle bullying well. People can come in and talk about it," Tommy said. "But some kids never want to report it."
The school's two guidance counselors know they do not hear of every bullying episode and say they want to know more. So this year, students have forms and drop-off locations to report bullying anonymously.
"It's an added defense for us as far as helping us if a student is having trouble," said Rochelle Cupps, a guidance counselor at the school. "Not every student will come into guidance office, and this will help the shy student or the bystander."
Hampton's anonymous reporting system is likely the first such arrangement in Allegheny County, said Sarah Zablotsky, a spokeswoman for the Allegheny Intermediate Unit.
The effort in Hampton comes amid a push in Pennsylvania to toughen the resolve of all schools against bullying by enacting statewide anti-bullying laws.
"Bullying is a pervasive problem and should be addressed in a specific policy by all school districts," said Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, a Montgomery County Republican who is sponsoring a bill that would require each school district to operate an anti-bullying program.
Last week, the state Senate's education committee unanimously passed the bill. It is being reviewed by the Senate Appropriations Committee for any financial impact and could come up for a vote by the full Senate later this month. The state does not have information about how many school districts have such programs.
At least 22 states have enacted anti-bullying laws since 1999, the year of the Columbine High School massacre in suburban Denver. Pennsylvania is not among the states with anti-bullying laws.
"Bullying is an ongoing and repetitive problem. It's about power and is not just limited to one isolated incident," said Mary Dolan, coordinator of the Pennsylvania Bully Prevention Network, part of the state Department of Education's Center for Safe Schools.
Curbing bullying is an ongoing process, Dolan said. "You have to have a schoolwide and classroom approach. It's not just an assembly on a Friday afternoon."
Bullying can involve teasing, taunting, threats, hitting, stealing or intentional exclusion by one or more students against a victim. Each day, about 160,000 boys and girls stay home from school because of fear of what a classmate might do to them, according to the National Education Association.
Bullying is far more common in middle school than in high school, said Cupps, the Hampton guidance counselor.
"It really stirs up the cafeteria and the bus room in the morning," she said. …