BRICK – As the school year kicked off on a positive note, the Brick Township School District plans to keep the positivity flowing throughout the rest of the school year with their anti-bullying curriculum.
With the coronavirus pandemic making students convert to online learning in 2020, it seemed bullying incidents increased last school year as kids returned to their classrooms.
At the September 8 Board of Education meeting, Anti-Bullying Coordinator Earl Mosely gave a presentation on Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying (HIB) and expressed how they’re working towards a more positive school year.
“One of the goals here is the create classrooms where everyone feels respected. That’s one of the things we’re working on. Not everything we will talk about is bullying, a lot of it is simple conflict,” Mosely said. “We want to equip our students to handle conflict. Not only our students, but our parents so they understand conflict versus bullying. We have outside resources available to support out students. We want to start the school year positive. We want our students to have positively reinforced in all that they do.”
HIB means any gestures, any written verbal or physical act, or any electronic communication whether it be a single incident or series of incidents. These can be motivated by race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, any type of disability, and more.
Mosely explained the difference between conflict and HIB, “how not everything rises to the level of bullying.”
“If I walk up and push someone, it doesn’t mean I’m a bully… Conflict is normal. As adults we have conflict with others. Let’s not raise the bullying flag,” Mosely said.
Moseley added how each school has an assigned anti-bullying specialist. They work together and train to support the bullying curriculum.
“If behavior is wrong, then it’s wrong and we correct the behavior,” he said.
Additionally, every year the schools participate ‘Week of Respect,’ which is the first week of October, as well as ‘School Violence Awareness Week,’ which is the third week of October.
Mosely compared the reported HIB incidents that happened in the previous school year. In preschool there were no incidents. In Elementary Schools, there was a total of eight incidents reported.
“Last year there was a bit of a rise in incidents. But that’s not just here, it’s nationwide,” Mosely said.
At the middle school level, a total of 39 incidents were reported. At the high schools, the total incidents were 30.
“Kids came back from being away and we had to remodel their behavior. They got adjusted to sitting on their computers, posting whatever they wanted. Not acceptable. We have to remodel the behaviors. We have to model those behaviors for them,” Mosely said.
“What we saw last year, certain things you can’t say. You can’t use the ‘N’ word. You can’t say other things racially, sexually. What they got away with when they’re sitting in their home, especially with Tik Toks, they copy it and send it out. Not acceptable. Calling someone gay is unacceptable. We saw these things happening and we need to address them and look further,” he added.
Why did these HIB incidents increase last year? Mosely said it’s because students were back in school.
“There was a nationwide drop in HIB during the pandemic across the nation. Kids weren’t making contact with each other. They came back in and all of a sudden, these things happen,” Mosely said. “From what I’m hearing already this year we had a great start to the school year. I’m believing we’ll make some basic adjustments in school rules and we’ll raise those expectations.”
What is the district doing to prevent and decrease HIB incidents? Some of the district training that they already have in place includes its annual anti-bullying district meeting, school level class presentations, conflict resolution, Mayor’s Teen Council and more.
In addition, the district has a peer leadership program where seniors meet with freshman to offer support, Youth Prevention Coalition, Gay Straight Alliance, Women’s Empowerment Group and more.
“The idea is to promote an inclusive environment where everyone has a level of acceptance, no matter what,” Moseley said.