The number of bullying incidents in Brick Township schools is up as the district, like others across the country, struggles with the social media revolution and its effects on students.
“I told the school board that we’ve been seeing a bit of an increase,” said Earl Mosely, the district’s anti-bullying coordinator. “We’ve had more racial comments in the schools and religious comments coming from these kids. We have not had that before.”
Mosely presented a report at Thursday night’s Board of Education meeting outlining the number of incidents covered under the district’s “Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying” (HIB) policy over the last several years, as required by state law.
During the 2016-17 school year, HIB incidents rose to 42 from the 30 the prior year. Before that, bullying had been on the decline. In 2012-13, the first year HIBs were tracked, the district reported 62 instances. It then dropped to 26 the next year, followed by 23 in 2014-15, as the district developed several programs for both teachers and students to combat bullying.
This year, Mosely said, staff members – from teachers to secretaries – were specifically trained in suicide prevention.
Not every conflict between students is represented in the HIB report. In many instances, Mosely said, school staff must determine whether an altercation between students reaches the legal definition of a HIB violation or whether it is something that can be solved more easily.
“Oftentimes what we find is that you get an allegation that ‘so and so did something,’ but it takes two to tango,” Moseley said. “It might not be bullying, but it’s a conflict.”
The bulk of the HIB incidents were recorded in the district two middle schools. The most – 13 in all – took place at Veterans Memorial Middle School and the second-most, 10, occurred at Lake Riviera Middle School.
Mosely said students sometimes feel “isolated” and turn to social media to air grievances publicly instead of resolving the conflict directly with the other party. The district is continuing to develop its anti-bullying curriculum this year and has already gotten to work on the 2017-18 “week of respect” event that has now become a district tradition.