School board member Kathy Korte thinks Albuquerque Public Schools has thoughtful, adequate bullying prevention policies. The problem, she said, is that enforcement is inconsistent among schools.
“The frustration is, I think this district has a very comprehensive set of consequences and procedural directives for how we deal with these incidents,” Korte said. “Every school has the outline. But the frustration lies in the fact that not every administrator is following through on the consequences.”
Her comment was met by applause from an audience of parents, students and others who shared emotional stories about issues they had faced in local schools. Several parents spoke of school administrators who did not respond when students and parents reported bullying and asked for assistance.
While many parents spoke about the seriousness of the problem, the meeting also dealt with successful programs at local schools and strategies for decreasing bullying.
Sabrina Giron, a seventh-grader at Ernie Pyle Middle School, spoke to the board about the Safe Schools Ambassadors program, which has been adopted at six APS middle schools. The students receive training on how to stand up to bullying without becoming targets themselves.
Giron, 13, said the program has changed the culture of Ernie Pyle.
“This has made a big impact in the school,” she said. “There’s no shoving in the halls, and some kids hold the doors for each other. Another big impact is if someone sees people being picked on or excluded, they will go up to them, sit by them and talk with them.”
Some prevention efforts are home-grown. Sandia High School senior Torin Hovander addressed the board during the public forum, telling it about an anti-bullying club that he and other students started at Sandia. They met with delegates from the other clubs on campus and tried to use peer pressure to send a strong anti-bullying message.
“The social ladder is what most students think about in high school,” Hovander said. “One of the easiest ways to gain social standing is to push someone else down.” He said his club helped shift the culture at Sandia, so that now students “lose standing” on the social ladder if they bully others.
APS Superintendent Winston Brooks said he will work with his staff to ensure principals get additional training on how to deal with bullying incidents to improve districtwide consistency.
“I do think we have principals that do better than others,” Brooks said. “We have principals who are better at budgets than others, principals who are better at playground supervision than others, and principals who are better at dealing with bullying than others.”
Brooks also said he would look into selecting one anti-bullying program to adopt districtwide.
— This article appeared on page C01 of the Albuquerque Journal