Punishing the bullies - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Punishing the bullies

Cd'A school board members push for harsher penalties for students who harass, intimidate or bully

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Posted: Sunday, August 3, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 12:08 pm, Sun Aug 3, 2014.

School board members in Coeur d’Alene want Idaho lawmakers to consider adding some fresh teeth to the state’s anti-bullying law.

The trustees on the school district’s five-member board are planning to ask their counterparts on school boards throughout the state to join them in seeking increased criminal liability for students who harass, intimidate or bully other students.

Idaho’s criminal statute prohibiting such behavior currently provides a purely punitive penalty: an offender “may” be found guilty of an infraction.

“That is the only remedy, so you pay a fine and you move on,” said Coeur d’Alene school board chair Christa Hazel.

That penalty, similar to a ticket for a driving offense, comes with a $72 fine.

Coeur d’Alene school trustees have drafted and submitted a resolution to be considered by members of the Idaho School Board Association in November, when they meet in Boise for their annual convention. The ISBA — comprising more than 500 elected school trustees from throughout the state — offers members information, training, legislative advocacy and other services. The resolution, one of many that will be voted on by ISBA members at the convention, could become part of the ISBA’s platform as it lobbies on behalf of school boards during the 2015 legislative session.

The resolution proposes that the ISBA work with the Idaho Legislature “to develop a tiered criminal sanction approach that provides more discretion for our judicial system in order to more effectively address criminal student bullying/harassment behavior in the school setting.”

“The whole goal is not to put more kids in jail, to criminalize them or penalize them,” Hazel said. “The idea, in my mind, is that if we have a particularly bad case, you’d like to think the parents would be involved and a withheld judgment or deferred prosecution might be the carrot that gets somebody to make some changes.”

Support from police

Coeur d’Alene Police Sgt. Christie Wood, who supervises her department’s school resource officers, said the issue comes up regularly during quarterly meetings. The SROs — uniformed police officers stationed in public schools — say the bullying statute isn’t sufficient, Wood said.

“We’re not there to trail ’em, nail ’em and jail ’em, by any means,” said Det. Steve Harris, a longtime SRO now stationed at Canfield Middle School in Coeur d’Alene.

Harris said the officers’ goal in the schools is to guide and protect students through education, awareness and relationship-building.

“And 99 percent of the time that works, but once in a while you have that one kid that won’t listen,” he said. “If I actually write that infraction, it’s just pay a ticket and go. There’s no diversion, no counseling.”

He recently dealt with a girl who just kept moving on to bully different children. With a tougher law, Harris said they might have been able to take steps that could have had a life-changing effect on that child.

“If you can change a kid by getting him help before he turns 18, you can really do some good,” Harris said.

But as the law stands, the SROs’ hands are tied.

“It is so frustrating to the officers,” Wood said. “This would make a big difference.”

If the criminal penalty for student bullying was enhanced, officers would apply it only in the “most egregious” cases, Wood said.

“We’re not just talking about a mean kid,” Harris said.

He pointed to an instance where increased criminal consequences would be appropriate: the girl who takes a photo of her middle school classmate as she’s getting changed in the locker room, and then sends it by cellphone to everyone in the school before the class is over.

“This girl is totally humiliated so quickly,” Harris said.

And it happens.

The 2013 Idaho Youth Risk Behavior Survey, released by the Idaho State Department of Education, indicates that 24 percent of high school freshmen and 33 percent of seniors report having sent or received nude images of themselves or someone else by email or text at least once in the past year.

Last year, 24 percent of high school children reported having been bullied on school grounds at least once during the last 12 months. The youngest children in Idaho’s high schools report being targeted by bullies most often: 39 percent of ninth-grade girls and 32 percent of boys in that grade.

Need to do more

Trustee Tom Hamilton, a board member since 2011, said that through the district’s efforts to combat bullying, he became aware that despite numerous reports of the behavior, very few cases were being referred to law enforcement.

Hamilton said the board rewrote school policy to require the district to forward cases of bullying to law enforcement, and to require that parents are called anytime their child is involved in a bullying incident.

“While preventive measures are an important part of the formula, punitive ones must be part of the equation too,” Hamilton said.

An anti-bullying task force was convened by the school district in March 2013 in response to parents’ complaints that their children were being targeted by bullies in district schools. The renewed efforts included a visit and training from Stephen Wessler, an internationally recognized hate crimes and discrimination expert.

Hamilton said he was profoundly affected by Wessler’s message.

“He said that the problem with bullying is that you can’t learn because you spend half the class in pain because of what happened to you on the way there, and the other half of class in fear of what’s going to happen after,” Hamilton said. “That’s what goes on in our schools. “It’s way more kids that are subjected to this than anyone wants to talk about.”

Hamilton said there are many things the Coeur d’Alene School District does well.

“But when it comes to bullying, we need to be honest, there is more we could and should be doing,” he said. “I think the districts need to be accountable, parents need to be accountable and the students need to be accountable.”

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  • FIy in the ointment posted at 3:37 am on Thu, Aug 7, 2014.

    FIy in the ointment Posts: 606

    "...Another win for Sodomites, Trannies, bi sexuals, tri sexuals, any sexuals, poly sexuals, freaks....inhumans, abominations...."

    YEAH...everybody wins, except them uppity bible thumpers. All back of the bus and chit...

    ::shrug:: Martyrdom has its merits

  • JesusIsTheLight posted at 8:09 pm on Tue, Aug 5, 2014.

    JesusIsTheLight Posts: 619

    Another win for Sodomites, Trannies, bi sexuals, tri sexuals, any sexuals, poly sexuals, freaks....inhumans, abominations...

  • JimmyJohn posted at 2:10 pm on Mon, Aug 4, 2014.

    JimmyJohn Posts: 273

    It sounds like you have some deep seeded animosity towards athletes. The vast majority of athletes working for college scholarships see it as a way to help pay for school, build leadership skills and form a relationship with teammates? Whose to say someone isn't using athletics to help them gain admission to Harvard? Yes they don't offer scholarships but athletics can help get you in.

    Yes some athletes are bullies, but so are some people in band, and some people in theater, and some people who devote all of their time towards studying. Does the whole band program get canceled for a year if 10 percent are accused of bullying? What about the theater department?

    Your attempt to vilify athletes is its own form of bullying. Is calling someone a jock not a form of bullying with all of the negative connotations the word brings? I knew a lot of athletes growing up, in college, and I know a lot of young athletes who are entering college and high school sports. Do you know what a lot of them also have in common? They are all near the top, if not the very top of their class.

    Bullying has more to do with how someone is raised and not their choice to participate in athletics or work towards a college scholarship.

  • jmowreader posted at 1:11 pm on Mon, Aug 4, 2014.

    jmowreader Posts: 1136

    There are two big issues here: funding and mass sanctions. Mass sanctions first.

    By giving the schools an absolute "this is what will happen if you do not fix your bullying problem" ultimatum, it will force them to clean these people out of their sports programs.

    I believe there are two kinds of bullies. The first are the ones who consciously choose to bully - they want to fit in with a peer group, perhaps. We as a society have decided good athletes are Heroes and bullies are Villains; as it stands now heroism erases villainy. Most of us would rather be a hero than a villain. Heroes get their picture on billboards, villains get theirs on the post office wall. Billboards are better than the post office wall. Tell a kid "you can be a hero or a villain but not both," the one who is capable of choosing will go with heroism. The other kind is innately programmed for villainy. He can't be good no matter how hard he tries - another name for this kid is "sociopath." This kid needs to be removed from the sports program, and probably diverted into a program to either fix him or keep him away from polite society. Besides the obvious advantage, it'll cut down on bullying among the first group. Sociopaths are charismatic people - natural leaders or "ringleaders" in this case. Get the kid who's trying for a scholarship to federal penitentiary away from the football team, and the kids who might have followed him will probably start following the one who's trying for a scholarship to Harvard.

    - - - - -

    Yes, this will cost money to implement. Tons of it in the first few years. It could even mean a tax increase. This brings the obvious question: We all agree bullying needs to be stopped. Do we all agree it's worth paying for?

  • JimmyJohn posted at 9:06 am on Mon, Aug 4, 2014.

    JimmyJohn Posts: 273

    While you have some good ideas I do not like the aspects of team punishment. We have enough rules and punishments that harm the innocent, why punish the remaining 90 percent of the kids for only 10 percent of the wrong doers. I know your argument is that the 90 percent should be held accountable for keeping the 10 percent in line but what if the 90 percent are being bullied by the 10 percent?

    Also a lot of your ideas, mainly the reformatory, will increase costs for our already underfunded school systems.

    Did you ever think that your attitude and language towards football players is a form of bullying? You call for all of these sanctions towards bullies but then use a term that has become rather derogatory towards male athletes.

  • SamuelStanding posted at 8:18 am on Mon, Aug 4, 2014.

    SamuelStanding Posts: 473

    And when the parent(s) are/is bellow the poverty level and cannot pay the $72 or $700 fine? What then? Bullies need consequences, just like any child pushing the boundries. Bullies are not just children, look at the national news with bully bus drivers, administrators and even teachers. We are more watchful as a society, and with technology can catch these brazen individuals quickly. Yet there needs to be a plan by society to change the culture. Fines may work, yet if you are an entitled individual, probably a fine won't mean squat. Some sort of community service for the school aged children, some punishment which would shame them in front of their classmates/piers and where others see the result of the bad behavior. Jail time for adults and a fine, because they should know better period.

  • FIy in the ointment posted at 10:06 pm on Sun, Aug 3, 2014.

    FIy in the ointment Posts: 606

    Bullies typically run in packs.

    Similar to wolves except humanity stupidly pays 100's of billions annually to endorse marketing and broadcasting the brutality to the drooling masses as these clamoring politicians ignore their common ideologies en route to the coveted golden fleece. And as has been the norm for 200-someodd-years people cast their votes of approval. And THEN there's sports and leisure.

    Wolves don't hold elections nor issue citations, the weaker of the species eventually knows its place. Like religion, remove money from the political equation and all you're left with is the incessantly incoherent stream of psycho-babble aimed at controlling the pack.

    Technically you're enabling better bullying, as if that's modern.

  • MMMMMM posted at 6:31 pm on Sun, Aug 3, 2014.

    MMMMMM Posts: 2721

    Very good suggestion!

    Parents are responsible for birthing and raising these bullies. Let them take the heat and fix their problem kids!

    You can see these kids everywhere you go - - - - they push ahead of elderly people and disabled people in lines. They ridicule others and what do their parents do? Often they just continue talking on the cell phone.

    It's really time parents were held accountable! After all, it's their genes running amok.

  • myhome posted at 1:19 pm on Sun, Aug 3, 2014.

    myhome Posts: 71

    I have always believed the action that should be taken is to inconvenience the parent of the child who bullies.
    A parent should be required to sit with their child throughout the school day as a part of the punishment. Nothing like losing a day of work or two to bring on some behavioral changes and of course what child wants it's mother or father being their shadow all day. Let a parent chose suspension over inconvenience...then the burden falls where it belongs.

  • jmowreader posted at 1:05 pm on Sun, Aug 3, 2014.

    jmowreader Posts: 1136

    I'm not sure we WANT to end bullying. From where I sit it doesn't seem that way.

    If you were to profile bullies you'd soon learn Your Typical Bully is a jock. Whether sports turns kids into bullies, sports attract bullies or bullies have learned they can get away with more things if they can catch a football I don't know, but if you were to make a list of a school's bullies and a second list of a school's sports team members you'd find a lot of the same names on both lists.

    Not all athletes are bullies...but most bullies are athletes.

    I'm going to talk about what doesn't work before I tell you what will. What doesn't work is Everything We're Doing Now. You know the posters, the assemblies, the lip-dub videos? All they do is encourage the bullies. I actually heard this line: "We're telling bullies we don't like it." Bullies know you don't like it. THAT'S WHY THEY BULLY!

    The only way to stop bullying is to inflict the maximum pain on the bullies. A $72 fine the bully's parents will pay anyway isn't going to do it. This will:

    1. The State of Idaho will set up a toll-free Bully Hotline. Any bullied student or teacher can call this hotline.

    2. When a bully is reported, the legal system will get involved. A thorough investigation and a trial will be conducted.

    3. If the bully is found guilty of bullying, he or she will be sent to the reformatory for the remainder of the school year plus the summer months that follow. If the bully was reported in the last semester of the school year, the sentence will include the first semester of the next year.

    4. This service will be considered payment for the printing of enough posters with the bully's face on them to issue ten to each public school in Idaho.

    and most important, 5: The bully will never play school sports in any public school in the state of Idaho again. His or her playing record will be erased from the books, and all games the bully played in will be forfeited. They did it to Penn State over Jerry Sandusky, they can do it to Kellogg High School over bullies.

    To encourage schools to step up their anti-bullying efforts, if more than 10 percent of one sport's players at a particular school turn out to be bullies, the school's entire sports program is suspended until the end of the next season for that sport...IOW if there are 60 kids on the football team and seven are caught bullying in 2014, there won't be any sports at that school until the end of the 2015 football season.

    And for extra effect, we should try to start interstate compacts so a kid who gets busted for bullying in Post Falls can't move to Washington or Oregon and get back on a football team.

    THAT is how you stop bullying. No one will do it.

  • oscar posted at 12:02 pm on Sun, Aug 3, 2014.

    oscar Posts: 1002

    I am already happily voting for you. Idaho needs a change from the lousy direction it has been moving.

  • ANesse posted at 10:32 am on Sun, Aug 3, 2014.

    ANesse Posts: 25

    After being a teacher for over 17 years and speaking with many educators, I know first hand the effects of peer pressure and bullying. It is a complex issue and will be a top priority of mine if I am elected to the Idaho State House of Representatives. The local school board can expect my wholehearted support for this and higher standards and hopes for all students of public education.

  • meidaho posted at 7:31 am on Sun, Aug 3, 2014.

    meidaho Posts: 221

    Back in those days schools also used large wood paddles with holes drilled in them so that a teacher could swing them faster at your read end. Now days bad kids don’t even get a slap on the wrist – instead they get a verbal don’t-do-that and continue to do the same thing again and again. We should consider going back to paddles.
    There needs to be teeth in punishment and teeth in fines – instead of $70 make it $700. That will get the parents attention that we mean business!

  • SHIPOFFOOLS posted at 5:28 am on Sun, Aug 3, 2014.

    SHIPOFFOOLS Posts: 645

    Great points.....In end it comes down to parents raising their children. Normal people do not like bullies. Those who do, and those who raise children to be bullies do not love their children. They use them. When i was in school in 50's and early 60's bullies were there too. Some of them got their arses kickef then and some get their arses kicked today. We do not need more laws. We need better parents. Pretty simple really.

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