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New Antibullying Task Forces in Kansas

On March 15th, Stephan Bisaha did story on KMUW, a National Public Radio affiliate out of Wichita, KS. The transcript is included below, courtesy of Stephan Bisaha and KMUW.

If Kansas has spent years of resources devoted to fighting bullying in schools, why hasn’t anything improved?

Robert Harrington, an instructor on the subject at the University of Kansas believes it’s an issue of education at the administration and educator level. We agree and believe it’s also an issue of communication between students and educators.

“The research is very clear. The teachers and administration in general don’t take appropriate actions to deal with bullying or they don’t take actions at all,” claims Harrington. We, at FightSong, agree with this sentiment and are excited to hear that there are task forces in the works to investigate bullying.

However, without concrete steps to support students, it seems unlikely that these task forces will really provide the support needed to solve the problem.

One simple way schools can have better communication between bullying victims and educational staff is to enhance their tiplines with a student and school counselor messaging platform. With such a platform (like FightSong!) students aren’t reporting incidents into the void– they initiate a conversation with educators who are able to easily follow up on the student’s recovery from the incident and provide counsel on how to best navigate the personal and social impacts of bullying.

Student and educator messaging platforms, especially ones that can easily display progress, are the most concrete way for schools to see the effectiveness of their support to their students while reducing the strained ratio of students and school counselors.

The state legislature is also creating a task force on bullying. At FightSong!, we’re curious to see what concrete actions these task forces will take to prevent bullying. We believe these task forces should include student and school counselor messaging to provide support to students in a confidential app, reduce bullying incidents and increase the ease of students getting support. WIthout such concrete actions (like implementing a new tool to support student and educator communication), we’re frankly doubtful that the task forces will yield results.

A troubling statement closes the end of the article from Elaine Johannes with Kansas State:

“Bullying — may only get worse as Kansas schools deal with a shortage of mental health employees.”

Student and educator communication platforms allow students to not only report bullying incidents but allows students to tell their educators when they’re feeling depressed or anxious– a common side effect of bullying that isn’t supported by report-only tiplines. We hope to see these task forces suggest implementation of cost-effective tools that can truly support students and are available to work with these task forces to ensure students are most effectively supported.

TRANSCRIPT OF NPR STORY, COURTESY OF KMUW:

K-through-twelve schools in Kansas still struggle with bullying, despite years of attention to the issue.

Robert Harrington teaches a course on bullying at the University of Kansas. He says schools in Kansas and across the country don’t have the proper training to deal with bullying, which leads to inaction.

“The research is very clear. The teachers and administration in general don’t take appropriate actions to deal with bullying or they don’t take actions at all.”

The state board of education announced a task force this week to investigate bullying. And the state legislature wants to create its own task force with a provision in the recently introduced school finance bill.

The bill also would allow students who report being bullied to transfer to a public or private school.

Kansas policymakers are looking for solutions for bullying issues in schools. As Stephan Bisaha of the Kansas News Service reports, the state is considering two task forces to investigate the issue.

The State Board of Education created an anti-bullying task force earlier this week and will receive recommendations by the end of the year.

The state legislature also proposed its own task force as part of its school finance bill.

Bullying has been declining nationally over the last decade. But in 2017 about one in four students reported that they had been bullied, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Elaine Johannes with Kansas State says that while bullying might be declining, schools are seeing increasing problems with other discipline issues.

“Aggression, acting out, lack of being able to cope and monitor behavior…”

She says those problems — and bullying — may only get worse as Kansas schools deal with a shortage of mental health employees.

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