Social Media Implicated in First-Half Bullying Report from Collingswood Schools
The district logged 13 reports of harassment, intimidation and bullying in the first half of 2012-13. Social media is "our biggest challenge," said Superintendent Scott Oswald.
There were 13 alleged and four confirmed incidents of bullying in the first half of the 2012-13 school year in Collingswood, and according to Superintendent Scott Oswald, social media is a big part of the overall problem.
“Our biggest challenge is and probably will remain the social media stuff that happens outside of school grounds,” Oswald said at the Jan. 28 meeting of the Collingswood Board of Education.
“The initial contacts there almost never happen in school.”
Of the confirmed incidents noted in the Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying (HIB) report Oswald presented at the meeting, the one involving cyberbullying resulted in the stiffest punishment levied by the district: an external suspension and "alternate in-school instruction" for the offender.
According to the HIB report, three of the confirmed incidents involved high school students; the fourth was reported at Tatem School. The school district was notified within five days of each occurrence, according to the report.
Bullying incidents are reported according to "a specific set of criteria" determined by law, Oswald said.
“You have to be distinguishing (picking on) a student because of some type of a physical feature, ethnicity, disability,” he explained. “Just because I call you a name doesn’t mean I’m bullying you,” by the state definition.
A rundown of the four incidents in question, as summarized in the BOE report:
- Sept. 7, 2012: At an off-campus location, a Collingswood High School (CHS) student “made derogatory comments to another student.” A parent conference was held and the threat of a suspension levied if the behavior persisted.
- Oct. 4, 2012: One CHS student reported “various acts of harassment” from another student. A parent conference was held. Collingswood Police generated an “informational report,” but no charges were filed.
- Oct. 11, 2012: A high school student “used social media to make demeaning comments about another student,” resulting in an out-of-school suspension and in-school alternate instruction for the offender.
- Dec. 14, 2012: A fourth-grade student at Tatem School “made a series of inappropriate comments,” leading the district to conduct a parent conference and institute a “daily behavioral contract” with the student.
According to data published by the New Jersey Department of Education, more than 12,000 documented incidents of bullying occurred in the state in 2011-12; the department also changed its data methodology for calculating such events during that school year.
Middle school sports agreement with Oaklyn
On Monday, the board also approved an arrangement with the Oaklyn public schools to share resources that would allow for joint middle-school extracurricular athletics.
“With this agreement, we will take on Oaklyn students, and Oaklyn will be supporting our program so that we can have a consistent, paid middle school baseball and softball coach,” Oswald said.
The cost of transportation wouldn’t be prohibitive, said administrator Beth Ann Coleman, because the Oaklyn district has its own busing service. The squads would split home games between fields in Oaklyn and Collingswood.
“A handful of Oaklyn kids came over because they didn’t have enough to support their own team,” added board president James Hatzell.
“By having them pay something and not having additional coaches because of the marginal number of kids, it’s kind of a win-win.”
Odds and Ends
- The board also formally accepted the donation of some 11 pieces of exercise equipment from chiropractor Robert C. McGrath of the Atlantic Spine and Joint Institute. The board reported its value as $23,635.
- As scheduled, the first day of the 2013/14 school year falls on Rosh Hashanah, Collingswood resident Alan Pepper pointed out at the meeting. Hatzell promised, “We’ll take a look at the calendar...and see if we can re-work the schedule.”