Ray-Pec School District tackles bullying with online reporting t - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Ray-Pec School District tackles bullying with online reporting tool

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PECULIAR, MO (KCTV) -

For weeks KCTV5 has been telling viewers about concerns over bullying in the Raymore-Peculiar Schools. Thursday night district leaders rolled out some concrete new steps to fight the problem.

"The schools I've been in, bullying has been a serious issue," said Dylan Houghton, one of several students KCTV5 has spoken to who have left the Ray-Pec Schools recently, they say, because of ongoing bullying.

"We reported that. They said, 'well if you see him in the hallway, turn the other way' and that was the response we were getting," said Dylan's mother, Toni Collison.

District leaders say they do take bullying seriously and laid out a plan Thursday night for quicker reporting and response.

"Unfortunately we sometimes don't find out about it until it's at the very end of the process and it's kind of come to a head, if you will, between the two students at school," said Ray-Pec Schools Superintendent Dr. Kari Monsees. "It makes it very difficult to really intervene effectively at that point in time. We'd like to get there sooner."

So the district presented a new idea, an online reporting tool right on the district's website, where students, parents, or staff can lay out a problem. It goes directly to the building administrator, or counselors, and students can stay anonymous if they choose.

"I think that it's a great beginning," Collison said.

One board member questioned how those anonymous reports will be vetted, to be sure kids aren't being unfairly targeted.

"The adults will review the information and decide what the next response is," Monsees said.

But school leaders say the point is to open up communication, to make kids feel comfortable, and bring parents into the process every step of the way.

The Facebook group Parents Against Bullying at Ray-Pec schools has sparked lots of debate, with parents sharing their stories online, but very few from that group came to the board meeting.

"I was the only [non-school board candidate] speaker," said Ray-Pec parent Jeffrey Adams. "This was an opportunity to become a part of the solution, not a part of the problem."

District leaders expect the new online reporting tool will be up and running within the next few weeks.

They also shared discipline data in the district over the past several years. Bullying does not have its own category. Administrators say harassment is the most similar reported category.

So far this school year, they've only had eight recorded cases of harassment at the high school. That's down from 19 in the 2012-2013 school year, and 46 in the 2011-2012 school year.

In the intermediate grades, however, there were 19 recorded cases of bullying so far this year, compared to five in the 2012-2013 school year, and 18 in the 2011-2012 school year. Administrators say there's been more of an effort to get kids to report incidents at the intermediate level and that may temporarily inflate those results.

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