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Calabasas Courier Online

-22855 Mulholland Hwy. Calabasas, CA 91302-

Calabasas Courier Online

-22855 Mulholland Hwy. Calabasas, CA 91302-

Calabasas Courier Online

Opinion: CHS needs to do more to stop bullying

Opinion%3A+CHS+needs+to+do+more+to+stop+bullying
Caitlin Brockenbrow

According to the CDC, in the last year, about one in every five high schoolers in the U.S. reported being bullied in school, with one in six reporting being bullied electronically. While bullying may tacitly seem to be the “norm,” its prevalence is a significant issue that needs real attention

On Nov. 16, Principal Bennett Wutkee announced CHS’ participation in the No Place for Hate Program. The program will include educational activities, a student and staff committee as well as giving students the option to sign a pledge to keep the school respectful, among other future initiatives. While this partnership could lead to some improvements on campus, in all likelihood, any assemblies or activities brought about by No Place for Hate will do little more than take away from class time. In order to decrease bullying, CHS needs to take a more hands-on approach.

“Bullying is hard to stop because it can happen behind closed doors,” said CHS Principal Bennett Wutkee. “It can happen on a phone, it can happen in places where we can’t be. So, you need to write a policy that’s specific enough but also gives you the ability to make interpretations.”

Despite the inherent challenges, direct bullying prevention needs to be a top priority. The most immediate way to decrease bullying is to delineate a clear, strict punishment for any form of harassment. About 14% of U.S. public schools say that bullying is a daily to weekly discipline problem. While LVUSD’s Bullying Policy defines bullying in a specific but interpretable way, its prescribed consequences for bullying are unclear. Part of the reason for this problem is that LVUSD’s bullying policy applies to all LVUSD schools and age groups – pre-school through high school.

“It’s challenging because [LVUSD’s Bullying Policy] is a policy written for all of the schools in the district, all the way from Buttercup Pre-School through the post-secondary programs,” said Wutkee. “They’re trying to write an inclusive policy that would talk about what could be implemented at any site in the district with the resources they have. If [LVUSD] was writing a policy just for Calabasas, they could be more specific on some of these things.”

Since the policy has to apply to all of LVUSD’s schools, it causes the language regarding discipline to be largely ambiguous, for example:

Any student who engages in bullying on school premises, or off campus in a manner that causes or is likely to cause a substantial disruption of a school activity or school attendance, shall be subject to discipline, which may include suspension or expulsion, in accordance with district policies and regulations.

Having the same repercussions for five-year-olds and fifteen-year-olds is understandably preposterous. Each school level should have its own disciplinary section of the policy.

Notwithstanding the vagueness of the current policy, generally and with respect to specific consequences, students still need to be aware of the results of their actions. A stricter, clearer policy should delineate the repercussions for different types of offenses, for example, a single offense cyberbullying message would result in detention. Since bullying can occur in many ways with varying degrees of severity, a flexible, yet specific, punitive system would put students on notice of the unequivocal punishment for their actions.

“[With a more detailed disciplinary policy] a person reading it could say, ‘okay, this is what I could expect,’” said Wutkee.

While specificity and an increase in consequences should decrease bullying, a stricter policy is useless if students do not report instances of harassment. Only 46% of bullying incidents are reported to school officials, and while a modified policy would encourage students to come forward, they would still need some assurance that their concerns would be heard and addressed. 

“I want to support the victims before it gets to a place where they feel like, ‘How long do I have to wait before I can report this?’ We don’t want somebody to think that hard when they’re unhappy, let’s just get you happy,” said Wutkee. “There always are [unreported cases] and it’s not uncommon for somebody to come to us and say, ‘This has been going on for X amount of time,’ and part of you is, ‘Couldn’t you have told me sooner?’ and part of you gets it, you were hoping it would stop or you were afraid that if you said something it would get worse […] it’s very common for [bullying] to happen and we don’t know about it. Sometimes we don’t know until a friend tells us that it’s happening to someone else.”

While it is evident that Wutkee, and by extension CHS admin, cares about its students, this is something that needs to be made explicitly clear. CHS needs to show its students that the staff not only cares but is there for and will help them by listening to student suggestions and concerns, being more available and active throughout campus during the school day, having more relaxed communication with students and much more. This trusting environment can happen with No Place for Hate, but that can not be the only solution.

Bullying is not a problem that is ever going to disappear, but that does not mean it is simply a problem to ignore.

“I think that it is unfortunately human nature that [bullying] exists,” said Wutkee. “[CHS has] had some cyberbullying this year, which is unfortunately probably the most pervasive and common as well as the most difficult because it never ends […] the conflict in Israel has been challenging too. And then you just have some kids just being very irresponsible and immature and unkind.”

It is meaningless for a district to have a zero-tolerance bullying policy when the repercussions are uncertain and students do not know the probable consequences of their actions.

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Caitlin Brockenbrow, Perspectives Editor
Hi! My name is Caitlin Brockenbrow, and I'm the Perspectives editor this year. Last year I was a staff writer and before that, I was head editor of my middle school newspaper and magazine for two years. Apart from articles, in my free time, I write creatively—mainly murder mysteries. English has always been my favorite subject, but besides reading and writing, I love theater, typewriters and drinking root beer floats.
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