Bullying programs a band-aid in Deming, NM schools

The actual attack, recorded by cell phone.

 

Deming, NM school administrators are hoping that programs in the schools this past week for Bullying Awareness Prevention Week will help prevent bullying in the schools. The program comes a month after several students beat up a Deming High School freshman. That incident led to a contentious meeting between parents and the Board of Education in September, in which parents spoke of ongoing name calling and physical altercations against students, most of which they considered racial. (See Sept. 23 Ground Report article, “Hispanic students attack Anglos in Deming NM schools.)
  
The bullying problem is widespread in our nation’s schools. According to the National Center for Bullying Prevention, up to one-third of the nation’s students will be bullied during the school year and each day more than 60 percent of students will witness bullying situations.

Shortly after this meeting, Deming Mayor Andres Silva signed a proclamation declaring Sept. 29 through Oct. 3 National Bullying Prevention Awareness Week, which would be marked by programs in the schools. The declaration seems to be a feeble response to a serious problem.

But it is a beginning. With events such as Pledging Hands Day (each student writes a positive statement on the cutout of a hand), Peace Day (students and staff wear white to symbolize peace), Swap Role Day (students tell instructors how they would like to see bullying handled), it is hoped that awareness will be raised enough to reduce incidents of bullying. 

Elementary school students were encouraged by police officers who spoke in the classes to walk away from bullying and ignore those who pester and bully them. If the message gets through to children at the elementary school level, it may help prevent brass-knuckle bullying at the high school level.

It could be too late, however, for these types of programs to make much of a dent in ingrained high school behavior where parents of bullied students are feeling powerless in the wake of an unresponsive school administration. “Since the Board of Education meeting, we have heard nothing from the school,” said one of the parents of a student who was recently attacked. “These bullying programs were held just to placate us.”

One of her frustrations is that she wanted to press charges against a student who attacked her son, but was told it was not possible since the attacker was from Mexico, one of the students who is bused in from nearby Palomas. Because of confidentiality issues, it is also difficult to find out if any of the students are disciplined, a situation that adds to parents’ frustration.

This is the third year the program has been part of the school year. There is no objective tracking of bullying incidents so it is not possible to measure how effective the program has been thus far.