Students, staff discuss campus bullying

For many students at San Marin, the definition of a normal school day is going to classes, listening to lectures, eating lunch with their friends, and relishing when they finally get to go home. However, that isn’t true for everyone. For some, their day at school begins and ends with someone posting an offensive message about them on Snapchat or Instagram, and when they get to leave and go home, bullying follows them there, too. The situation hasn’t really improved, especially considering the repercussions that Donald Trump’s election has had on student communities all across the country, including our own. Protests at school, phones being knocked down, and threats based on political stances and race have only exacerbated the situation, and these problems are being reflected nationwide in the form of increased hate crimes. In 2008, after Obama’s election, there were 7,783 instances of hate crimes against people, of which 51.3% were based on race and 19.5% were religiously motivated, and 16.7% were based off of sexual orientation, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and since then, the level of hate crimes has slowly been decreasing. Since the election, though, at least 300 counts of hate crimes have been reported, according to NBC News, most of which occurring on K-12 campuses.   

From the staff’s perspective, the biggest problem lies in the fact that it is hard for students to make their voices heard. Since bullying has become much less public and more personal with the rise of social media, staff members find it much harder to see these occurrences and help out.

Ms. Jennifer Larson, the school’s former administrative coordinator, said, “People who are being bullied struggle to bring their situation to light, and people who are around it struggle to find the best way to help.”

She believes that while the school is making positive steps towards aiding students in situations where they are being bullied, there is also the stigma of discussing the problem with adults.

Academic counselor Ms. Laura Triantafyllos also acknowledged the fact that some students are reluctant to report their issues to staff members. According to her, kids don’t approach the staff because they believe that the staff will only make the situation worse, and that students don’t want to tell on bullies out for the sake of their own safety. Even though students come to school to learn or hang out with friends, staff members also acknowledge that the impact of bullying takes a great toll on students’ ability to learn and grow.

“I think that it affects [students], their social-emotional needs and I think it makes it very hard to be at school. When you are in a classroom and you are consumed by that type of feeling, it is very difficult to learn,” said Larson.

The students have somewhat mixed responses to how the administration handles these situations. Some students believe that the staff make the situation better.

“From past experiences, I think that staff involvement has helped,” said Lexi Krajeski, a sophomore.

Students such as Rohan Ayyar, a freshman, think that the staff at school doesn’t see bullying happen on campus, and that students dealing with the problem themselves is better than reporting it.

“[Some] feel that if they report the bullying, the bully will find out they told, and things may be worse…Another good reason people don’t like to speak out against bullying is because they feel that the teachers won’t do anything about it,” said Ayyar.

Olivia Wreden, a junior, who is one of the team leaders in the No Bully Solution group, has a slightly different opinion as to why students on campus don’t want to talk to teachers about their issues.

“It’s really scary to tell an adult, especially when you aren’t familiar with the staff members. Sometimes you don’t want to tell them because you feel nervous and you want to try and handle the situation by yourself,” said Wreden.

She believes that it’s really uncomfortable to disclose your problems to an adult, but if things are to change, then the students must become more open and the staff should be more approachable.

The administration also agrees that the way to address this problem is to help educate our community about what bullying is and how we can help others deal with this, so that the stigma is reduced.

“If bullying is reported, we’re going to look into it no matter what. An investigation would ensue…And when it comes to bullying, it’s all about safety, and making sure the victim is comfortable about whatever action is going forth,” said Mike Casper, the assistant principal.

According to him, it has become more common to find people bullied through electronic means, and even though it may be harder to observe bullying on campus, it hasn’t stopped the school staff members and students from trying to help. Bullying is a problem that has a severe impact on our entire community, and there are changes that need to be made if San Marin is going to help students deal with the issue. The school is making progress in its efforts to quell bullying at its roots, and with the prospective improvements, at least something is being done to help.