Ferry schools taking anti-bullying action

MARTINS FERRY The Martins Ferry School District is continuing to pursue its policy against bullying. A parent had recently contacted the Times Leader with accounts of their child being bullied and of hearing similar complaints from other parents.

Superintendent Dirk Fitch said all of the building administrators take an active role in monitoring student behavior and safety.

“Each school year begins with every student going through the student handbook that discusses student expectation and discipline policies including anti-bullying information. Our middle school, as part of the River Schools Initiative and its Safe and Healthy Schools Program, incorporates the Olweus Ant-Bullying Program. The program teaches our students what bullying is and how to react to it in a positive manner.”

He added that complaints of bullying have been minimal, adding that the Olweus program defines bullying as repeated negative actions occurring during a period of time when the subject of bullying has difficulty defending themselves.

“Please rest assured that whether the complaint upon investigation registers as bullying or something else, the incident is dealt with,” he said. “Our job as educators is to try to develop an environment where no student feels threatened and that all students have a chance to succeed. Just like any other subject, you try hard to have 100 percent effectiveness, but we all know that is just not feasible.”

Fitch said there is no particular age range or type of student more likely to bully or be bullied. He said the district makes constant adjustments as new laws are passed, or as recommendations come down from the Ohio Department of Education, the Ohio School Boards Association or Buckeye Association of School Administrators. They contract with NEOLA, a group that writes policies under the advisement of school law attorneys.

He asks students and parents to please contact their building administrator or their child’s teacher in whatever school or district the child attends.

“Parents and guardians must also know that investigating these types of incidents is not a quick process. Sometimes an investigation takes longer than anyone wants. Please also be aware that some complaints cannot be proved or they may be in fact disproven. Facebooking or Tweeting complaints does not help school officials solve the problem. Posts on the social media sites causes all sides to get in a defensive mode and makes investigating difficult. These sites only fan the flames and adds additional hurdles to solving the problem. Most importantly, I want all parents to know that the vast majority of Martins Ferry students come to school, have a great experience, and receive an outstanding education as our latest state data demonstrates.”

DeFrank can be reached at rdefrank@timesleaderonline.com