Tag Archives: bullying

Bullying report left out Memphis statistics

The scope of the bullying problem in Tennessee public schools was understated significantly in a report the state released Thursday, because it did not include Memphis statistics, according to the Commercial Appeal.

Memphis City Schools reported 1,982 confirmed cases of harassment, bullying or intimidation property during 2012-2013 school year — a figure that would have increased the statewide total by more than a quarter.

The report issued Thursday listed 5,478 confirmed cases statewide. Adding numbers from Memphis — by far the state’s largest school district — would bring that statewide total to 7,460. (Note: Previous post HERE)

An official for the state Department of Education said she doesn’t know how the error occurred, but speculated that data had been collected around the time the city-county school merger was completed last July, and may have been misplaced or lost.

“All directors received communication throughout the year. We held trainings on how to submit the data,” said spokewoman Kelli Gauthier.

But Shelby County Schools spokeswoman Stefani Everson said the former Memphis City Schools district was not asked to provide data.

The report was created by Peachie Jones in the Department of Education’s office of civil rights. She did not respond to an email seeking comment Friday.

Memphis, with 105,000 students, had the largest number of bullying incidents of any school district in the state. Metro Nashville, with 23,000 fewer students, reported 812 confirmed cases.

Rachel Shankman, executive director of Facing History, Facing Ourselves, suspects the actual number of cases is 10 times higher. “Most students never report it and simply don’t go to school, which affects attendance and retention.”

Dept. of Ed report shows 7,555 cases of bullying in TN schools last year

News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
Nashville, Tenn. — A new report on the number of bullying cases in Tennessee’s public schools was released by the state’s Department of Education today showing there were 7,555 cases reported during the 2012-13 school year. According to the data submitted to the state’s Department of Education by school officials statewide 5,478, or 72.51 percent, of bullying reports submitted were confirmed after investigation.

The report was required under anti-bullying legislation which passed the General Assembly in 2012 sponsored by Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and Representative Charles Curtiss (D-Sparta). Of those bullying cases reported, 321 were based on race, color or national origin, 695 concerned sex or gender-based discrimination and 168 involved a student’s disability.

“The numbers in this report are very alarming,” said Senator Ketron. “Besides the obvious emotional harm bullying does to a student personally, it also hampers the kind of classroom atmosphere that promotes learning. This is a systemic problem that we need to address not only in our schools, but in our homes, churches, community organizations, on the ball field and elsewhere.”

“This is so sad,” added Representative Curtiss. “I am very pleased that this information is now coming forward so we can do something about it.”
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Lawmaker’s Remark on Bullying Bill Draws Criticism

A bill to strengthen the state’s anti-bullying law was sidelined for the year in a House subcommittee after a remarks by Rep. Roger Kane that are being criticized as insensitive.
Kane, R-Knoxville, read from a section of the bill (HB927), which would broaden the definition of bullying to include “any conduct that substantially interferes with a student’s educational benefits, opportunities, or performance, and that is based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, ethnicity, academic achievement, sexual orientation, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, or physical appearance of either the student or a person with whom the student has an actual or perceived association. ”
He told the sponsor, Rep. Karen Camper, D-Memphis, that he could see the broad language covering a 7th grader “wearing a Texas Aggie t-shirt” being the butt of jokes from other students. Kane recalled himself “being the tallest 4th grader and being picked on because my ears stuck out.”
“That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,” Kane said.
The latter remark was cited by Tennessee Equality Project, which advocates for gay, lesbian and transgender rights, in a news release declaring that Kane should be removed from the House Education Committee.
“He’s essentially saying that bullying is good for you because it toughens you up. Rep. Kane sends a terrible message to those Tennesseans who have forever lost a friend, a student, a son, or a daughter (through suicide after a bullying situation),” said Jonathan Cole with the Tennessee Equality Project.
Kane said afterwards that he was simply pointing out that the bill is overbroad. Kane said his mother was Jewish and his father Catholic, which caused him to be criticized as “a Jesus killer” as a child.
“It made me a better person – able to got to a better place because of it,” he said.
Several other members of the panel criticized the measure in lengthy debate. It was ultimately sent to to the state Department of Education for review with Kamper’s agreement. That means it will not be further considered this year.
Kane said he would work with Kamper on the bill “to refine it and make it better” for consideration next year.

UPDATE: Asked for House Speaker Beth Harwell’s response to Kane’s comments, her spokeswoman, Kara Owen, sent this email:
The Speaker takes the issue of bullying very seriously, as does this entire legislature, evidenced by the full discussion in committee on the bill. We are confident Representative Kane wishes to work toward good, solid policy on this very important issue.

Father of Murdered Youth Decries ‘Open Season’ Attitude Toward Gays

The father of a murdered University of Wyoming student said Wednesday that Tennessee’s legislators appear to be creating a policy of “open season” on homosexuals through bills introduced and comments made.
“These bills disturb me, just the fact that they’ve been brought to the forefront and there’s so much publicity about them,” Dennis Shepard said at a Legislative Plaza news conference.
He noted that two Middle Tennessee teenagers have committed suicide in recent weeks and that relatives believe they were the target of bullying because they were gay.
“I’m concerned about the kids,” Shepard said. “.We’ve lost two in the last 30 days. We’ll never know what those two young men could have done to help the city, the state and the country.”
Shepard’s son, Matthew, was tortured and killed in 1998 after being chosen as a victim because of his sexual orientation, according to his father and testimony at the trial of those accused in the slaying. Dennis Shepard and his wife have since set up a foundation, named after their son, that among other things promotes enactment of “hate crimes” legislation that covers attacks based on sexual orientation.

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