Administrators fine-tune procedures dealing with harassment

The Estacada School District is examining its policies regarding harassment and bullying among its students.

Longtime district psychologist Richard Rosenburg addressed the topic during a Wednesday, March 6, administrative meeting.

Rosenburg said public awareness of the problems associated with harassment and bullying increased after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colo. He praised the programs already in place at the junior high and Clackamas River Elementary School to deal with those issues.

“I think we’re doing a lot of good things here,” Rosenburg said.

Students were asked about their experiences with harassment and bullying in a wellness survey conducted in the district last year. It was filled out by students in the sixth, eighth and eleventh grades.

According to that survey, 80 percent of students reported hearing bullying taking place. Around 60 percent said they had seen it and 75 percent indicated they had heard negative rumors being spread about other students.

Half of the students surveyed said they had experienced harassment in the past 30 days, although that number was lower among the eleventh-graders.

Rosenburg said the district’s policy should emphasize three areas: response by adults to stop any incidents that may occur, teaching positive behaviors to students and making sure that their individual needs are met.

Research indicates that positive behavior might be enough, Rosenburg said, adding that consequences and punishment might have less influence on students. Roseburg, who has been the district’s contract psychologist since the mid-1980s, said it’s important to identify the times and places where bullying and harassment take place.

He also suggested the formation of a coordinating team consisting of students, parents and staff to follow up on bullying cases.

Rosenburg said that even though consequences are not the “be all, end all” of ending such behaviors, it is important for students to see that policies prohibiting bullying and harassment are enforced.

The district must also create a clear differentiation among students between reporting incidents and “snitching,” Rosenburg said. Confidentiality should be ensured for students who do report bullying and harassment, he said, and key staff members who can be approached about such incidents need to be identified.

Other suggested approaches include teaching conflict and peer mediation to students so they can solve issues on their own. Procedures for investigation and intervention by adults also should be put in place, Rosenburg said.

“There needs to be a protocol,” he said. “It would be nice to have it written down.”

Some parents might be contributing to the problem, Rosenburg said, and school officials should work with them on these issues. He also mentioned that cyber-bullying is the biggest related problem at the high school.

“On Facebook, there’s a lot you can do to them,” Rosenburg said.

Rosenburg passed out forms for administrators to detail the specific policies, practices and procedures at their schools to combat bullying and harassment. They plan to fill them out and return them to him so he can determine what methods are working well at the schools.

“Let’s build on what we’re already doing,” Rosenburg said.

Another separate form also was passed out to administrators.

At a prior meeting, Clackamas River Elementary School Principal Seth Johnson suggested that volunteers fill out a form acknowledging that they’ve read the district’s policies on bullying and harassment and pledge to report any incidents to staff members.

That form will be included as part of the process when volunteers consent to background checks.

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