Woodlake Unified advances bullying policy

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By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN
WOODLAKE – National campaigns against bullying have brought the detrimental effects of victims to the forefront. In response schools have made it a priority to be on the lookout for bullying behavior and stop it whenever they can. The latest school district to dig deep into their bullying policy is Woodlake Unified (WUSD).
According to superintendent Drew Sorensen, the WUSD board wanted to take it on unprompted. Sorensen noted that bullying has not been a big problem for the school district. At F.J. White there are 1-3 bullying cases per year on average, Castle Rock Elementary encounters 3-5 bully cases, Woodlake Valley Middle School handled six cases of bullying last year, and Woodlake High School normally encounters 1-4 cases of bullying per year. And despite the low numbers the Board recognized that there is always a way to make the policy better.
Board Policy BP 5131.2 on bullying states, “The Governing Board recognizes the harmful effects of bullying on student learning and school attendance and desires to provide safe school environments that protect students from physical and emotion harm. District employees shall establish student safety as a high priority and shall not tolerate bullying of any student.”
Sorensen added, that teachers know that when they see it they need to stop it. But he recognized as well that teachers are not able to be everywhere at once. That is why the District decided to address the problem with a tip line. Recently added to all of the District school’s websites, parents and students can now submit a written description of the problem they are having with bullying and the message will only go to the pertinent District and school administrators. However this is just one of the preventative measures the school is using.
According to a report presented to the board, the District uses a Citizen Unit of Study at every grade level in addition to the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) starting at F.J. White and going through Woodlake Valley Middle School. The District also uses a Community of Caring Pledge and a variety of lessons and speakers to help inform students on the negative impacts of bullying at Castle Rock Elementary.
Woodlake Valley Middle School students have already started to adopt some of the preventative measures when it comes to bullying. The report notes that middle school students have also signed a pledge during lunchtime during Anti-Bullying Challenge week in addition to attending an assembly focused on reporting bullying instead of recording bullying.
And according to the National Center for Education Statistics, physical and verbal bullying is at its worst in school during grade sixth through eighth. Cyberbullying is most prominent during the last three years of high school. The same report notes that most confirmed incident involve some form of social media.
Because of the prevalence of cyberbullying that is difficult to regulate, the school issues an article over Cyber Safety in addition to welcoming the Tulare County District Attorney and the Woodlake Police Chief along with a bullying parent workshop.
The school will continue its policy of trying to prevent bullying while also dealing with incidents. Administrators will continue to investigate the issues, interview witnesses and contact parents in addition to handing down consequences and offering support services. But adding another layer of prevention through the tip line might help teachers identify the few incidences of bullying quickly.
“We know for a fact that things occur but we hope with the tip line and making [bullying] a point of emphasis we can stop bullying incidences,” said Sorensen.