District schools surveying parents and students about bullying

Ashland public schools are sending home surveys about bullying and harassment, hoping that parents and students will help schools identify problem areas.

"They can help identify locations on campus that have become hotspots, where bullying or harassment are more likely to occur, or they can let us know about vocabulary that's being thrown around," said Ashland Middle School Principal Steve Retzlaff.

Principals from all of the district's traditional schools told the School Board Monday about their plans to administer the surveys this academic year.

The surveys are part of a biennial District Improvement Plan officials submitted to the Oregon Department of Education in September, Superintendent Juli Di Chiro said.

"One of the strategies that we identified was to do these climate surveys," she said. "We're trying to get at things like bullying and harassment and other things that might be impacting kids ability to do well in school."

Bullying and harassment concerns have increased in recent years with the advent of social networking Websites, which students sometimes use to disparage others online, Retzlaff said.

"We're trying to work with parents to try to inform them about the dangers for students on Internet sites like Facebook and Myspace," he said. "We do know that things happen on Facebook — incidents happen on Facebook, where they're posting things that aren't very kind to each other and then it spills over to school on Monday."

Most district schools are developing the surveys this fall and will administer them in the spring, Di Chiro said.

The middle school, which has issued similar surveys in the past, will administer one survey this winter and another in the spring, in the hopes of addressing some problems this year, Retzlaff said.

"We'll use the survey in the spring to compare it to the earlier one, to determine whether our interventions were successful or not," he said.

Retzlaff will share results of the winter survey with the School Board during a meeting in January at the middle school, he said.

"We'll look at what kind of information comes up in that survey and we'll try to respond to it," he said.

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-708-1158 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.

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