SIOUX CITY | Siouxland schools are finding they are better able to stop harassment due to the depth of data required by the state Department of Education's new bullying database.
The database, which has been in use for the past month, requires districts to document every incident of bullying reported to staff. Reports must detail where the bullying occurred, who was involved and why the victim was targeted.
A list of 17 characteristics allows districts to report if a student was bullied because of their race, gender or sexual orientation among other factors. Only four categories -- race or ethnicity, physical attributes, sexual orientation and other -- were listed in the old system.
“You get a bigger picture, and you can chart that data,” said Marilyn Charging, Sioux City schools director of pupil services and equity. “With the profile, you can see if there is more cyber bullying, if it’s on the bus or the locker room and respond.”
Responses can include increasing staff in problem hallways or training.
Department of Education school improvement Bureau Chief Amy Williamson said training won’t be developed until after the first wave of reports is evaluated sometime this winter.
Districts filed 10,922 reports of bullying in the 2011-2012 school year, according to a department report. Those complaints were filed by students and staff.
Williamson said she expects that number to increase this year due to the added depth of the database.
The database was created to abide by reporting guidelines required by the state's anti-bullying and harassment policy that was implemented in 2007. The new reporting requirements were added to cover additional discrimination categories added to the state's Civil Right's Act this year.
Iowa is not the only state figuring out how to respond to bullying. According to a survey given to 18,205 students at the Lincoln Public Schools in Nebraska, bullying is most likely to occur at recess for elementary students and the hallway for middle school students.
Name calling, picking on another student, gossiping behind another student’s back and being physically attacked were the most common forms of bullying, according to the report.
A month into the new Iowa system, many schools are still adapting to the additional reporting requirements.
Districts are also getting used to filing reports more frequently, Williams said. District’s used to file once a year.
“For the first year, we said it would be ideal if (schools) filed monthly. We will be thrilled if they file quarterly,” she said. “For future years, we plan to push it to real-time.”
South O’Brien school Superintendent Daniel Moore said that he does not expect his district to have any difficulties with the new database despite the more rigorous reporting.
Moore added that it’s too early to tell how the database will help the district.
“We’ve always reported and, and we will continue to do it,” Moore said. “The information is still very similar.”
Williamson said she has had mixed feedback so far. Some districts like the depth of new data reporting while other find the additional requirements too tedious.
A change from previous years is that districts have to report with the state even if bullying incidents turn out to be unfounded or if there are no incidents to report. In cases where there’s nothing to report, districts file and then confirm there’s nothing to report.
Williamson said the goal is to ensure districts follow through with the reporting practice. While there are no specific punishments for filing, districts could potentially risk losing their accreditation.
Charging said she doesn’t expect problems in Sioux City since the district is just enhancing the data it already submits.
The database will also help keep students safe, which allows the district to provide a better learning environment, Charging said.
“This new reporting will make sure people are investigating bullying and that we’re accountable,” she said. “That’s should make students feel safer. We need to do everything we can to make students feel safe.”
The Lincoln Journal Star contributed to this report.