News10NBC Investigates: Bullying inside our local schools

Jennifer Lewke
Updated: November 08, 2019 06:49 PM
Created: November 07, 2019 10:44 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — One in every three teenagers report having been the victim of bullying according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.  

If you’re a parent, you’re probably wondering how big of a problem bullying and cyberbullying is at your child’s school and what’s being done to stop it. News10NBC has been digging into the data each school is required to keep when it comes to bullying and cyber-bullying to get some answers.  


What we’ve found when analyzing the data is that school districts seem to have different definitions of “bullying” and that is likely skewing the numbers significantly.  

Bullying is a problem everywhere and with smartphones and social media, kids often can’t escape it even at home. 

New York State requires school districts to report all incidents of bullying and cyberbullying so it can better understand how bad the problem is and allocate resources to try and help.  

News10NBC dug through the data reported by local school districts.  

Greece Olympia High School, for example, has a student population of just over 1,000 and last year reported 52 cases of bullying and 12 cases of cyberbullying; those numbers are about average in our area, but Gates-Chili High School has more students and reported zero cases of bullying and zero cases of cyberbullying during the same period.

Jennifer Lewke, Investigative Reporter: Should parents really believe there's no bullying at all here at Gates-Chili?  

Kenneth Hammel,Gates-Chili HS Principal: There's been bullying since there's been school but the definition of bullying, you really have to look at what the state defines it as, and you have to understand that bullying is generally a one-way street. Our incidents really that we've dealt with on educating kids are really, a two-way, two-person interaction.

Fairport High School has an even bigger student population and also reported no cases of bullying or cyberbullying. Fairport administrators wouldn’t speak with News10NBC on-camera but said they too have “incidents” but they don’t report them to the state unless there is a pattern of behavior with the same students.

So, clearly, there seem to be different interpretations of the definition of bullying and when incidents should and shouldn’t be reported. 

“Even if today, you and I have a problem and it's our first incident, it becomes an incident of bullying over time but if I don't capture that first incident... then I'm not going to see the trend,” Caterina Leone-Mannino, the principal at School 17 in the Rochester City School District explained. 

Five years ago, School 17 was deemed persistently violent and dangerous by the State of New York and since then, Leone-Mannino says she’s taken a more pro-active approach 

“If you bring me a concern, we're going to work through it together,” she said. 
That’s even if it drives up the number of incidents she has to report to the state. In 2017, School 17 reported 608 cases of bullying. 

“A child not wanting to sit in a certain seat in a classroom, that may get referred out because, oh, refusal to sit in the assigned seat but when you dig deeper, that's because last night there might have been a problem on Facebook with the kid that's sitting next to them,” Leone said.

Because of its numbers, School 17 gets extra resources to invest in counselors that work with students in cool down rooms, they use restorative circles to bring kids together after disputes and provide guidance to many students who’ve grown up only seeing conflicts resolved with violence.  

That work brought its bullying numbers way down in 2018. 

“The reality is, there are many obstacles that cause that to be and when the school can step in and help remove some of those obstacles, you have a better chance at breaking the cycle of repetition,” Leone said.

As a parent, how are you supposed to know which approach your school is taking to report the numbers and if you’re getting a real feel for how it’s handling bullying? 

To be clear, the state law says a single verified bullying incident should be reported and in a statement, a spokesman for the NYS

Department of Education says, “there is literally nothing more important than protecting our children, and it is critical that everyone has a clear and consistent way to track and compare the level of safety in every school. The Department convened a Safe Schools Task Force

Workgroup on Data Use and Reporting which worked to revise the Violent and Disruptive Incident Reporting (VADIR) categories and definitions, effective for the 2017-18 school year. The intent is to make reporting less complicated and to place greater emphasis on accurately identifying violent incidents to facilitate accurate reporting.”

Lewke: The state has said, we're not sure everybody is reporting the data exactly the way we want it, do you see that there may be some confusion? 

Hammel: I would say that there's always confusion with the state so, I'm not gonna... I would say, if the state really is looking at that, then certainly we would invite them to come and educate us better on how to report accurately.  

To see how many incidents of bullying and cyberbullying your school reported in the 2017-2018 school year click here.

For more information on the reporting requirements check the following links:

The Dignity Act


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