In response to increased chatter on social media and a story published in the Tribune on bullying at South Tahoe Middle School, the district says it has conducted a survey concluding a majority of students haven't been bullied in the past year.
In a press release sent Friday, Lake Tahoe Unified School District says it decided to administer an anonymous survey to the 890 students at South Tahoe Middle School "to gain a better perspective from the students themselves on the problem of bullying."
The press release announcing some of the results came after the Tribune published a story in which Liz Ferguson spoke out about bullying directed at her 14-year-old daughter. Prior to the story, Ferguson took to social media to post about what happened to her daughter.
"I have 87 examples between Facebook, Instagram, private messages and texts that were sent to me by different parents of issues that they've had in school," Ferguson told the Tribune. "They've pulled their kids, they've homeschooled, they've moved, or they've graduated."
The district said it conducted the survey "after an alleged bullying incident prompted a family to post disparaging comments on social media about the neglect of school district staff in addressing bullying issues…"
Of the 890 students who were sent the survey, 755 responded, according to the district.
Of those who responded:
64.4 percent reported that they have never been bullied at all during this school year;
16.3 percent reported that they experienced bullying "seldom" or 1-2 times per year;
11.8 percent reported they experienced bullying "sometimes" or 1-2 times a month;
5 percent reported they experienced bullying "regularly" or 1-2 times per week;
2.5 percent reported they experienced bullying "every day."
LTUSD says the survey provided valuable information for what teachers and administrators can do to stop bullying. The survey also allowed students to provide their name if they felt "an urgent need to speak to a counselor," which 20 of them said they needed.
Those students' needs are being addressed in a timely manner with care and concern by the school's intervention staff, the district said.
While acknowledging that the district does not have similar survey results to compare the recent results to, STMS "feels the survey data reveals that the vast majority of students feel safe and are enjoying a friendly and positive middle school experience," the district said.
Still, staff are continuing to search for the most effective tools for combating bullying in all forms — a point that STMS Principal John Simons discussed in the Tribune's previous report.
"We've focused on bringing in personnel to be experts and help us with this. For example, my site has a psychologist, two counselors, a vice principal and an open position for a student advocate," Simons said at the time.
In addition to the multiple layers of training STMS students and staff receive, LTUSD formed a committee with the goal of implementing social emotional learning (SEL) in all schools. According to the district, professional development and piloting curriculum in SEL are scheduled for the 2018-19 school year.
The district also noted that bullying needs to be addressed both at the school level and at home. It also noted that cyber bullying is illegal, and that recent legislation gives the district the authority to suspend or expel students who cyberbully during non-school hours.
The district asks that families allow time for an investigation into a bullying complaint so that factual information may be obtained and appropriate disciplinary measures can be administered by school officials.
"Bullying in any form is not tolerated at LTUSD and students and families should report bullying incidents to a teacher, administrator, or through the district's anonymous reporting system."