Monday, May 16, 2011

School bullying widely underreported

For two years in a row, nearly half of the state’s 67 school districts reported less than 10 bullying complaints to the state. And some districts that are reporting complaints aren’t confident the data provides an accurate picture of what is — or isn’t — happening on campus.

Miami-Dade, the state’s largest district with 347,400 students, reported just seven cases in 2008-09. The next year, it tallied 802, the second highest in the state. District leaders say the first number included only cases that involved police.

What is bullying?

Here is how the Florida Department of Education suggests local school districts define bullying in their policies:

“Bullying means systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress on one or more students or employees. It is further defined as unwanted and repeated written, verbal or physical behavior, including any threatening, insulting or dehumanizing gesture, by student or adult, that is severe or pervasive enough to create an intimidating, hostile or offensive educational environment; cause discomfort or humiliation; or unreasonably interfere with the individual’s school performance or participation; and may involve, but is not limited to: teasing, social exclusion, threat, intimidation, stalking, physical violence, theft, sexual, religious or racial harassment, public humiliation, destruction of property.”

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