Editor’s note: This is the second of a three-part series on Utah’s Student Health and Risk Prevention survey on Tooele County students. Part One was about alcohol, tobacco and drug use among youth.
Incidents of local students being picked on or bullied while on school property jumped from 14.5 percent in 2011 to 23.4 percent in 2013, according to student responses in the 2013 Student Health and Risk Prevention survey.
A total of 8 percent of the students surveyed also said they missed at least one day of classes because they felt they would be unsafe at school or on the way to school, according to the 2013 SHARP survey.
In 2011 that total was 6.3 percent.
And according to this year’s SHARP survey, the Tooele County School District’s trend on bullying and student safety closely align with the state’s overall trend.
Statewide students that reported being bullied on school property rose from 13.5 percent in 2011 to 21.2 percent in 2013. While students that reported they missed school because they did not feel safe grew from 5.3 percent in 2011 to 8.3 percent in 2013.
“It is hard to tell if we have more bullying or better reporting,” said Superintendent Scott Rogers for the Tooele County School District.
Either way, the district is already taking steps to address bullying in schools, according to Rogers.
“We received a grant in August to pay for counselors in elementary schools,” he said. “That grant also included money for a bullying prevention program for the elementary schools.”
That new anti-bullying program, called “Second Step,” was started at seven elementary schools two weeks ago, according to Marianne Oborn, the school district’s career and technology education director. Oborn is also the administrator for the grant.
“We could only get enough money to put counselors and the bullying program in seven schools,” she said. “If I had the money, we would put them in all the schools.”
Some elementary schools have already adopted other anti-bullying programs, according to Rogers.
“I visited Settlement Canyon Elementary and they are using Rachel’s Challenge and it appears to be well accepted,” he said.
Rachel’s Challenge is a program designed to build safe school environments. It was developed by the father and step-mother of Rachel Scott, the first student killed at Columbine High School. It is based on the writings and life of Rachel.
Reaching out to students while they are in elementary school may pay off down the road, according to Rogers.
“Maybe, if we can get to these kids while they are young, we can help them develop some life skills that will avoid bullying,” he said.
The district also just concluded a series of four seminars for parents, held in different locations around the county, which covered the topics of mental health, Internet safety, substance abuse, and bullying.
In the seminar parents learn how to identify and respond to bullying. The district already has a bullying and hazing policy that was last updated in 2010 to include cyberbullying.
The policy includes definitions and the prohibition of bullying. Bullying and hazing by students and staff is prohibited by the policy. The policy also requires training for students and staff, establishes requirements for reporting, including the opportunity for anonymous reporting of bullying and hazing, and describes appropriate disciplinary measures for verified violations of the policy.
“We will look at the data with the board and our staff and see what other steps we can take,” said Rogers.