Bullying Statistics

Mar 20, 2019 by

According to State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s audit, the NYC Department of Education has under-counted the number of bullying incidents in its public schools. In fairness to the DOE, which is no slouch as a fudger of data, any actual disparity may be due to semantic snafu and not the usual willful manipulation.

The city’s school discipline code doesn’t coincide with state regulations. Judgments about what constitutes bullying are unreliable because the criteria do not correspond.  What gets submitted to the Online Occurrence Reporting System (OORS) is anybody’s guess.  Literally. 

Its Keystone Cops with metrics.

The state requires every “single verified incident” of bullying to be inputted. If every time one kid picks on or pushes around or gives another a kid a hard time over anything at all, or imposes superior force of personality or implied muscle on another student a wrung lower on the vulnerability ladder, it is classified as bullying, there won’t be enough storage space on all the world’s computers.  Some engineer would need to produce a genetic mutation to thwart the normal process of child development.

Not too practical and a trifle surrealistic.

Common sense can never prevail when there are inflexible definitions.

The comptroller’s three-year audit was conducted to discover whether the DOE was complying with the Dignity For All Act of 2012, which mandates that within one day of school officials becoming aware of any actual or potential incident covered under an umbrella of vague, general and undefined categories of disrespectful interaction, it be submitted through OORS, given a code that matches the offense and investigated. If labeled “material”, ( as opposed to incorporeal?) by the Office of Safety and Youth Development, notification must be made to the state education department, which then files it under one of 12 “bias” categories, including “other”,  one of which is a catch basin for bullying.

More Keystone Cops.

The DOE doesn’t embarrass easily, nor do they stand idly by when legitimate criticism comes their way.  They would be nominated for a Nobel Prize in Organizational Damage Control , if there were one. So they have re-organized their safety office, added a data traveler,put their heads together at catered meetings to expedite reviewing procedures and, naturally, added staff.

This latter measure is what the DOE does best at HQ.

Will that make a difference? If the leaders of Hillside High School are to be believed, it can’t get any better than the status quo. Over nearly 600 schools in the last few years, their student body of over 3000 students did not generate a single instance of bullying.

More important than bookkeeping to fend off critics is obviating the problem of bullying in the first place. Instead of refusing to suspend students even if they commit serial acts of major violence and instead using fuzzy alternative behavioral modification schemes, they should be honest. Even if they don’t want to “let the punishment fit the crime”, they can let the “remediation fit the challenge” or use any other jargon they like, as long as it makes the school safer.

Suspensions are a deterrent to bullying in some cases. They should be a last resort but they should also be expanded.

Ron Isaac

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