Advocate editorial board opinion: All of us are needed to address severe problem in schools

By the Advocate Editorial Board
Dec. 10, 2011 at 6:10 a.m.

We still agree with Clara Ramos, our local activist who lobbied for a bullying hotline in the Victoria school district. To our knowledge, one is not in service. Bullying is certainly a problem in schools everywhere. But in many situations, what is called bullying can merely be a fight or disagreement.

Recently, we were alerted that bullying might be occurring at Patti Welder Middle School. Of course, we were not there, but the accounts reported by Advocate reporter Kayla Bell in the Advocate today certainly are testimony of bullying.

However, in many cases, determining that bullying is occurring can be difficult. Sometimes, what people call bullying amounts to a fight or a personality conflict.

The Victoria school district has outlined criteria to more reasonably define bullying, according to the district's Student Code of Conduct: "Bullying is written or oral expression or physical conduct that a school district's board of trustees or the board's designee determines: 1. To have the effect of physically harming a student, damaging a student's property, or placing a student in reasonable fear of harm to the student's person or of damage to the student's property; or 2. To be sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive to create an intimidating, threatening, or abusive educational environment for a student."

Victoria schools Superintendent Bob Moore said the problem "is a deeper issue than bullying. The true root problem is that we have more and more children in our schools today lacking problem-solving skills related to day-to-day living. For a growing number of these students, conflict resolution for some of our students is physical violence."

Moore said everyone should get involved, not just school officials.

"We cannot do it alone. We have to have a community - the village - to help this process. We have wonderful partners in the community who work daily with our students as mentors and role models. We need more," he said. "We also need to put into place an attitude that any adult who sees bullying take place must take action. We need to inspire other young people who witness acts of bullying to step up and step in to, at minimum, report it and ideally to work to create peer pressure to stop it from happening again," Moore said.

He added that bullies like audiences. He also said adults bear the responsibility of teaching children things such as mutual respect and civility.

"We need to do better for our children," Moore said.

We agree, and we also think it's great that Anitra Shelton-Quinn, director of school pyschology at the University of Houston-Victoria, along with colleague Trina Gordon, is starting the Village Builders project, an endeavor to work with the Victoria school district to end bullying and address problems children are facing in school.

And we still think a bullying hotline would help those students who are afraid to step forward or are being brutally bullied. The hotline would be a way to check and resolve problems expediently.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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