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Lawmaker concerned schools not reporting bullying incidents

Posted: 11:12 AM, Aug 06, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-23 14:20:01-04
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INDIANAPOLIS — A state lawmaker is responding to a Call 6 Investigation that found half of Indiana schools did not report a single bullying incident for the 2018-2019 school year.

“The lack of reporting on this issue is concerning because we believe that bullying is happening at higher rates in schools across Indiana,” Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis, said. “For whatever reason, school corporations are not reporting instances of bullying to the degree that students and parents have said they’re happening,”

Porter said the state needs to look into why this is happening.

“We need to make sure we are getting to the root the issue here and better understand what is preventing school corporations from reporting certain instances of bullying,” Porter said.

New numbers revealed a 6 percent decrease in bullying reports in Indiana schools, and 50 percent of Indiana schools did not report any bullying to the Indiana Department of Education last school year, records show.

TOTAL NUMBER OF CONFIRMED BULLYING INCIDENTS:

2015 — 6,805
2016 — 3,641
2017 — 4,037
2018 — 5,604
2019 — 5,257

“Those numbers are suspicious to me as they are to other legislators,” said Porter.

PREVIOUS | Half of Indiana schools reported zero bullying for 2018-2019 school year

Prompted by a Call 6 Investigation, in 2018, Porter had legislation signed into law for the state to get better information about bullying in schools.

The legislation says IDOE needs to send an annual reminder to schools letting them know it’s still required to submit data around bullying instances, and that the department can audit those reports.

However, IDOE needs to leave at least two phone calls from parents about a school to trigger an audit.

“There’s a disconnect when it comes to the audit, because two parents have to call in,” said Porter in an interview with RTV6. “The gap is educating our parents and our parent teacher organizations about what they can do. Parents are living it, and I think it’s important they come to us and say this happened to my child, and we can look at legislation with regards to that.”

Parents can email rleclaire@doe.in.gov or call 317-232-0524 if they feel their school's bullying numbers are inaccurate.

Another problem-- the bullying numbers reported to the state do not contain any student information, so it’s difficult for parents to tell if their child’s incident was counted as bullying and reported to the Indiana Department of Education.

Porter says that needs to be addressed as well.

“I think we need to look at the definition again and expand the definition of bullying,” said Porter. “I’d also like to go to some of those school corporations and say, so there’s no bullying?”

The new law also requires IDOE to share with lawmakers the results of a survey from the department on schools’ efforts to improve bullying reporting. 100 percent of schools submitted bullying numbers to IDOE for the 2018-2019 school year.

“I believe we saw 100 percent participation from school corporations reporting bullying data in this most recent report because of my legislation that became law in 2018,” Porter said. “While this law also allows for audits of the reports from school corporations, it’s clear we need to work together to understand what is preventing school corporations from reporting certain instances of bullying in their schools.”

The first of its kind survey that sought to uncover what's stopping schools from reporting accurate bullying numbers found only 49.7 percent of schools believe their numbers are accurate, 14 percent blamed lack training regarding bullying, 5 percent believe IDOE's data reporting process is faulty, and 5 percent fear retribution from the community and media.

20 percent of schools reported the state's definition of bullying is too vague.

Porter said the state needs to do better.

“It’s important that these numbers are as accurate as possible so that we can provide the appropriate resources to teachers, parents, and students to effectively prevent bullying in schools across the state,” Porter said.

If you think your school's bullying numbers are inaccurate, please contact kara.kenney@wrtv.com .