Goose Creek CISD board members will form a committee to address one of the most atrocious problems facing any school and student--bullying.
Kim Kosteck, a Goose Creek parent, spoke to the board about their efforts to tackle the bullying problem at the district.
“I would formally like to express my sincere appreciation and gratitude for recognizing the magnitude of the bullying epidemic and your willingness to improve our procedures and resources within our district,” Kosteck said. “Eleven days ago, [Senate Bill 11] was signed into order and included the requirements to develop programs and committees to address the many aspects of mental health and bullying within a district. I can only assume we will now be at the forefront of this within our district.”
Kosteck said she had formed a friendship with Maurine Molak, whose son, David, committed suicide as a result of bullying. This led to the passage of David’s Law, or SB 179, passed in 2017.
“We have had the opportunity to discuss statistics that the legislature uses to pass and strengthen our laws,” Kosteck said. “Although statistics show conservatively that 70 percent of children between grades 4 through 8 will have fallen victim to a bully, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavioral survey in 2017 alone showed that on average 19% of high schoolers experienced bullying in the previous 12 months. This number is as high as 23% of 9th graders trending down to 14% of 12th graders.”
Kosteck said the statistics are more alarming concerning the feeling of hopelessness almost every day, which is 34%, and 18% that seriously considered suicide.
“Please put those numbers mathematically within our district,” Kosteck said. “Let’s be conservative and say we have conservatively 6,500 high school students that would be well over 1,000 high school students in our district that were victims to a bully in 2017. Remember, the numbers trend down. So let’s say it was the same. So, conservatively that would put us at about 950 more students with a total of over 2,100 students in our district...conservatively grades 6 and 12 in a single year.”
Board President Agustin Loredo III said he was excited about the prospect of forming a committee to address bullying.
“I talked to some administrators this afternoon, and they are in agreement that we are going to explore how to form the committee,” Loredo said. “We are going to form it. And we also want accountability. We want regular updates.”
Loredo said the committee is going to be formed by the district’s administration and should be completed by the fall.
“It might be prudent to put a board member on it,” Loredo said. “That is a step in the right direction. We have some board members that are passionate about it. The reality is we all were bullied at some point in our lives, but it does not give an excuse for it not to be in check.”
Loredo said the key component for the committee is for students and parents to be involved.
“From the school level and the district level, we will have to concentrate who will be on the committee and not be rushed,” he said.
Araceli De La Cruz, the district’s director of student services, talked about where bullying occurs. It can be punished if it happens on school property or at school-sponsored or school-related activity on or off school property. Cyber bullying can also be addressed, but only if it interferes with a student’s educational opportunities; or “substantially disrupts the orderly operation of a classroom, school, or school-sponsored or school-related activity.”
“In the past, it was at school district events or on a campus,” De La Cruz said. “Now, if it is any kind of bullying, including cyber bullying, the information is brought to campus with evidence such as pictures. On social media, there are apps kids are well versed in, and as soon as you post it, it is gone in a snap. We always encourage parents to share images, and we have the ability to address incidents that did not happen on district time or resources.”
De La Cruz said bullying at the district is sometimes reported anonymously, to a trusted administrator or through programs such as PS3, which is connected with Crimestoppers.
The school counselors, the campus administrators and law enforcement all play a role in how bullying is reported, De La Cruz said.
However, how bullying is reported was a concern among the board members. De La Cruz said campus administrators conducted 122 investigations, but only 18 of them were confirmed cases of bullying. Another 104 cases were deemed “not to have the elements of bullying.”
Some of the cases appear to be assigned to “assault” and are never reported as bullying.
Trustee Shae Cottar asked what is the difference between assault and bullying.
“There is a differentiation between bullying and assault, but many times they are an overlapping thing, not an either/or,” Cottar said. “If we discount those bullying in incidences, are we skewing the data?”
De La Cruz explained this falls under the Texas Education Agency, and they could only be changed if they were petitioned.
“Under the system we have, we are not allowed to code one incident under two different offenses,” De La Cruz said.
Loredo said the presentation was “eye-opening.”
“I do not know if we all understood the crux of the problem is the data,” he said. “I know Mrs. De La Cruz is only working with the tools she has. I don’t know if we as a board know if the data being put in is helping to keep a track record but not helping parents because they think it is the first time it happens.”