Hull High School students gathered on the sidewalk outside the school on April 1, holding signs and clapping for cars that honked as they passed. We were protesting recent actions of bullying and our dissatisfaction with how the school had handled those actions and similar ones in the past.
This civic action drew the attention of local news stations and gathered about a fifth of the school in unity. We stood up for something we were passionate about and did so respectfully and in an organized manner.
Shortly after the protest, Principal Nicole Nosek lauded participants over morning announcements for standing up for what we believe in. She also reassured us that action was being taken, and that all bullying reports go through a rigorous investigative process outlined in the school bullying policy. Our response to this: What?
Apparently, the bullying policy is explained to students at the beginning of the year, as is the reporting process. Why, then, were so many of the students I discussed this with unaware of the process?
The issue here is not necessarily that the school doesn’t try to make students aware of the process; they do. It’s that there’s a definite discrepancy between what they’re attempting to do and what’s actually understood.
The school reviews the policy at the beginning of the school year as part of class meetings. It’s possible that the information gets lost in the pile of forms and speeches students get at the beginning of the year, or that it goes in one ear and out the other as they try and shake off the haze of the summer.
But that’s not acceptable. Right now, the best way to decrease bullying is to increase student awareness of the reporting and investigation process. Once that is no longer such a daunting task, maybe students will feel more comfortable reporting incidents.
So the question remains – how do we increase students’ awareness? For starters, a single review of the policy at the beginning of the year might not be cutting it. Instead, as I discussed with Principal Nosek, we should consider utilizing extended advisory periods as a way to open up the conversation around bullying and remind students of the reporting process. Nosek also mentioned that she is in the beginning stages of creating a task force to help students feel more comfortable reporting bullying and to possibly survey their opinions on how the administration can better help prevent it.
Policy is only effective if students hear about it, remember it, understand it, and know how it is used. Our schools need to do a better job of communicating it in an effective way. Hopefully after last Friday, school personnel understand that students are ready to participate in that process.
To read the bullying policy, visit https://www.hullpublicschools.org/district/student-services/pages/bullying-prevention-and-intervention-information.
Victoria Dolan is The Hull Times school correspondent. This column expresses her student viewpoint. For questions or news tips, please email email@example.com.