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SIOUX CITY | Forty-six instances of bullying were reported by the Sioux City School District in the last academic year, more than double the number the previous year, according to new state data.

Most victims were verbally bullied by fellow students on the basis of their mental abilities, physical attributes or real or perceived sexual activity, according to a Journal analysis of the Iowa Department of Education report. The instances, deemed "founded," to use the state's terminology, occurred in classrooms, playgrounds and hallways.

The department has been compiling detailed bullying data from each district for the last three years, and then posting the results on its website. The reporting is based on instances, rather than the number of students, meaning the data could mean an individual student was bullied more than one time.

The Sioux City district, which has the state's fourth-largest enrollment with 14,500 students, ranked fifth with 46 bullying instances in the 2016-17 school year, behind West Des Moines (71), Davenport (68), Burlington (67) and Iowa City (64).

Sioux City had 21 founded instances of bullying in 2015-16, the state's ninth highest number, and 30 instances in 2014-15, the eighth most statewide. Davenport topped the 2016-16 list with 73 instances, and Waterloo's 56 instances were the most in 2014.

Sioux City Superintendent Paul Gausman's office did not respond to repeated Journal requests to discuss the most recent state report. The release comes as the district received repeatedly criticism in recent weeks from some parents upset with how bullying of their children was handled by the district.

In previous stories, Gausman emphasized that reports of bullying receive a full review from administrators.

"Instances of bullying are always investigated and acted upon immediately when we are made aware of any challenges. Building leaders and the District’s Student Services and Equity Education Department often serve as the first point of contact when concerns are brought forth," Gausman said previously.

The number of found bullying incidents statewide was 1,454 in 2016-17, slightly down from 1,713 in 2015-16. In the first year, 2014-15, there were 1,454 founded instances.

The state's website said the collection of bullying and harassment statistics across Iowa is being done "for use in determining areas of concern in order to focus bullying prevention efforts."

"This will allow us to better target our bullying prevention and intervention programs," the website said.

In one statistic from another entity regarding bullying, a 2012 Iowa Youth Survey showed that 57 percent of Iowa’s school-age children reported having been bullied in the last 30 days.

Three years of statistics

Verbal bullying has been the top reported harassment method for the last three years in the Sioux City public schools.

Breaking down the 2016-17 numbers, the top bullying methods were verbal, with 28 incidents by such means as taunting, name calling, threatening to cause harm or inappropriate sexual comments. Eighteen instances were by physical means, with hitting, kicking, pushing or taking or breaking a student's belongings, and 10 instances were categorized as social bullying, such as embarrassing a pupil in public or spreading rumors about them.

Sixteen instances were reported in a classroom, 15 on a playground, 13 in a hallway, 13 by locker, 10 in the cafeteria and three in a restroom. 

The top locations for 2015-16 bullying in the Sioux City district were classrooms, and in the prior year the top order was in playgrounds, followed by classrooms and hallways.

The 2016-17 data shows the largest number of incidents were made to students in the trait categories of real or perceived sexual activity (11 such reports), physical attributes and mental abilities (eight incidents) and familial status (three incidents). Those categories were also top markers in 2015-16, while other incidents in the last three years were also reported based on the race, religion and political beliefs of bullied students.

The state information does not break down the grade level of bullying incidents.

In one recent example of public airing of a bullying incident, Brandi Boyd in February told the Sioux City School Board her child was bullied at Unity Elementary School. "It is now in elementary schools. It is really scary," Boyd told the board.

The Sioux City district has an online reporting form for discrimination, bullying, harassment and hazing. Those reporting an incident online are asked to fill in the date, school building, name of complainant and target, nature of alleged bullying, name of the person or persons alleged to have committed the act and names of witnesses. There is also a space for people to at length summarize the incident particulars.

Reporting categories

The state department has shared some background on how the information is collected.

The state says some bullying incidents may have involved multiple harassers and multiple victims, and that they may have taken place in multiple locations, so the number of locations listed in statistics may exceed the number of "founded incidents." Also the target student may have been bullied or harassed because of real or perceived membership of multiple protected categories.

The new categories dialed down in terms of the location of bullying incidents, such as a school bus, hallways, locker areas and classrooms,  and method of bullying in schools, including whether they are verbal, social/relational or electronic. The expanded categories placed bullying in relation to 17 traits, including race, age, color, sexual orientation, political belief and socioeconomic status, in order to line up with those listed in the Iowa bullying/harassment law.

Some data had been collected before 2013, but categories of the data changed, so meaningful comparisons can only be made over the last three years.

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County and education reporter

Government and education reporter.

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