Ladonna Davis has observed a lot of forms of bullying among middle school students.
Children have used their phones to record different things to put on the Internet. One instance involved an Instagram video featuring a student in a degrading light – and the student had no knowledge of the video and did not have an Instagram account.
Luckily the situation was dealt with; the video was removed and some students even apologized to the victim.
“That was not a favorable situation,” Davis said. “It was handled in a way to where the child did not have to suffer further humiliation.”
Davis, the guidance counselor at Alston Middle School, has organized a series of anti-bullying workshops over the course of the school year in order to address the issue and inform parents on the definition of “bullying.”
“Sometimes we’ll get complaints from parents ... ‘My child is being bullied’ ... and it’s not really bullying – but sometimes it is,” she said.
The first workshop Davis held was to give the definition of bullying – to let them see what is bullying and what is not.
“Bullying” has to be a repeated offense – or something that has the potential to be repeated. The action has to be intentional, and there has to be a power imbalance – some sort of perceived threat, whether it is size or age or something else.
Within Dorchester District Two Davis feels like school officials have all been proactive about dealing with bullying; the schools put out policies and educate students on the situation, and district counselors collaborate on solutions throughout the year.
The anti-bullying workshops started this year school year at Alston.
“We address any inappropriate behavior if we know about it but not everything is considered ‘bullying,’” she said.
Davis feels bullying is a national problem, and Alston Middle School is no exception. With this generation excelling in social media and new kinds of technology, the amount of bullying is only building. “I will say on a daily basis we deal with peer conflicts,” Davis said. “Some of them follow that bullying category and some don’t.”
Davis said in middle school there is always peer conflict. The use of the word “bullying” has grown and it appears more people are reporting situations of bullying.
“They’re kids,” she said. “Sometimes it’s something petty and sometimes it’s something serious.”
At Monday’s workshop parents will learn “online lingo” that students use. They will learn about the different social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, etc. so parents will know what to look for in bullying situations.
Davis said counselors from the community will be coming to the event. The workshop is not just for Alston Middle School families; it is open to the public.
“Kids are fast, so we’re trying to let the parents know where to be looking,” Davis said.
At Alston Davis said the students are educated on bullying all year round; they carve out time to do lessons on bullying. While the adults are in the cyberbully workshop Monday night students will be in a separate class doing a student-only workshop.
Davis felt like the last anti-bullying workshop was well received by students, teachers and parents.
Davis said the administrative team at Alston collaboratively decided to initiate workshops this year in order to be proactive and not just reactive when it comes to bullying.
“I would say it was a joint effort,” she said. “We want parents and the community to know we are aware and are trying to do something about it.”