Who's most impacted by bullying, and what's the BCSD doing to combat it?
Bullying isn't a recent phenomenon in the Baldwin County School District, or any other school or school district for that matter.
Bullying is just a bigger topic these days, which is a good thing, of course. The trend actually began in the late 1990s, according to an academic article published in the May-June 2015 issue of American Psychologist. A big turning point, according to the article, was the Columbine school massacre in 1998, as well as several bullying-related suicides that were picked up by the national news media in the late '90s. CNN, along with Fox News and MSNBC, the latter of the two both launched in 1996, quickly figured out that bullying stories and bullying tragedies were good for ratings, as did other media groups.
The momentum continued into the 2000s with the advent of social media and onward to 2022, when seemingly everyone and their grandmother has a Facebook page. This is where local mom Brandi Faulk seized her opportunity. Faulk's first post on the supersized Milledgeville Roadblock Warnings Facebook page, which actually has more members than people living in the city of Milledgeville, documented the bullying faced by her autistic son at Oak Hill Middle. That first post garnered more than 1,000 interactions, including more than 350 comments. Faulk's subsequent, follow-up posts have received several thousand more interactions.
Thirty years ago, Faulk could've written a letter to the editor to the newspaper and hoped that people read it. Thirty years ago, however, there wasn't the opportunity for instant feedback and a groundswell of momentum and other parents sharing similar stories. Just like businesses that feel pressure to keep up good online reviews, school administrators feel it, also. This, of course, is a good thing, as the Baldwin County School District surely feels more pressure to tackle the bullying issue and feels the brighter heat of the spotlight.
It's an unenviable task for the school district, however. Bullying isn't something that can ever be fully eradicated or "stopped," regardless of how many Facebook posts or public service announcements or hashtags there are. As the aforementioned article states, "school bullying has been around for as long as anyone can remember, featured in Western literature for over 150 years."
Nevertheless, this is the challenge for the BCSD. The system, like others, have made strides over the years, as the spotlight on bullying has grown. Superintendent Noris Price detailed some of the BCSD's initiatives in a recent email correspondence with Baldwin 2k News. These include:
• "Counselors and mental health workers who are available to support the students' social-emotional needs" – These school counselors, according to Price, "provide small group counseling and utilize the Second Step Curriculum which includes a bullying and harassment unit and relatable scenarios for students."
• A Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) framework – PBIS, according to Price, is "an approach schools use to promote school safety and good behavior. With PBIS, teachers teach kids about behavior expectations and strategies."
• A "No Place for Hate" designation – According to Price, Oak Hill this school year "became a 'No Place for Hate' designated school and has initiated an anti-bullying campaign. Teachers have used resources focused on bullying to emphasize and discuss bullying and other types of intolerant behaviors."
• Security cameras in all primary, elementary and middle school classrooms – Added Price: "In the future, the plan is to install security cameras in all classrooms in the other schools using our ESPLOST dollars.
• Increase in school resource officers
If it seems like bullying is especially bad in middle school, well, that's because it is. The federal government's National Center for Education Statistics has been conducting a very large once-every-two-year survey since 2005. The 2020-2021 data hasn't been released to the public, so the most recent data is from 2019. "Sixth grade" has held the top spot in six-of-the-eight surveys released by NCES, going back to 2005. This includes the 2019 survey, when 28.1 percent of sixth graders surveyed "reported being bullied during the school year." No. 2 and No. 3 were seventh and eighth grade, with 28 percent and 26.7 percent, respectively. A dip is then represented at the high school level. The survey does not include students from lower grades.
NCES survey, 2019
Also, according to the survey, male student were actually 25 percent less likely to be bullied than female students. However, "a higher percentage of male students than of female students reported being pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on" by a 3-2 margin.
Perhaps the most glaring finding of the survey is bullying amongst mixed-race kids. A whopping 37.1 percent of mixed-race kids reported being bullied in the NCES survey, which was roughly 50 percent higher than the next closest group (white).
NCES survey, 2019