Bowie High School parents are planning an anti-bullying campaign fighting back to end the trend inside the school, which is among the Prince George’s County School System leaders in reported bullying incidents.
Bowie High PTSO is working with school officials and Prince George’s County Councilwoman Ingrid Turner (D.Dist-4) of Bowie to have an anti-bullying symposium on Sept. 30.
School system records show that Bowie High School had 17 incidents of bullying, harassment and intimidation in the 2012 to 2013 school year — the second highest in the county. Duval High School in Lanham tops the list with 23 incidents.
In the 2011 to 2012 school year, Bowie High School led the county with 17 reported incidents, according to school system records. Bowie High has about 3,000 students, according to school officials.
“High school is an impressionable time and it marks you for life,” said PTSO president Elaine Beal. “Things like [bullying] can have an impact on you in both directions whether you’re someone who is doing it or a victim of it.”
Tentative plans call for the school to bring about 100 student leaders together for a series of workshops looking at bullying, its impact on people and conflict resolutions, said Ingrid Harrison, a community outreach coordinator for Turner.
Principal Drewana Bey said she hopes the effort moves the school in the right direction.
“I hope what comes from it is that our students are more aware of what bullying is and how it impacts them whether they’re the offender or the victim,” Bey said. “From there we get more adults aware of what to look out for. About 90 percent of the time with a bullying/harassment incident it stems from something on social media. That piece is so big and makes our job a lot harder when kids are saying different things online and have to come back into the schoolhouse and coexist.”
Turner launched an anti-bullying program in September 2012 at nearby Benjamin Tasker Middle School, also in Bowie, that brought together around 200 middle school and high school age students from across the county for workshops focused on stamping out bullying, Harrison said.
Denise Swann, a BHS math teacher for roughly a decade, said at least once a year, she’ll have a student come to her about insults they dealt with on social networking sites such as Facebook.
“It’s something we’re very aware of and have tried to take preventive steps to ensure it doesn’t exist,” Swann said referring to training faculty have had on spotting bullying. “It’s a big concern for us at the school.”
High reports of bullying, harassment or intimidation aren’t necessarily a bad thing, said Diane Powell, director of the department of student engagement and school support for the school system. The school system has been working for years to make students more willing to report incidents, she said.
“We’re trying to remove the stigma attached to reporting,” Powell said. “We perceive it’s important to have ongoing conversations about pro-social behavior and anti-bullying.”
With the start of the upcoming 2013 to 2014 school year, the school system is planning to release an online tool that will allow students and parents to submit complaints of bullying, harassment or intimidation directly to a teacher online, Powell said.
Currently reports have to be turned in on paper to an administrator, she said.
“We want them to know that telling or reporting is not tattling or snitching,” Powell said. “It’s keeping your peers safe and improving the environment for everyone in the building.”