South Lake Tahoe schools focus on curtailing bullying
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — Bullying is a term that is becoming harder to define and interpret, but both South Tahoe Middle School and South Tahoe High School are taking steps to ensure the term doesn’t have a place on its campuses.
“The important thing is defining bullying, as the term can be overused and misrepresented,” South Tahoe High School principal Chad Houck said. “There is a difference between rude behavior, mean behavior and bullying. The latter is repetitive and intentionally designed to hurt another person.”
Lake Tahoe Unified School District allocated funds that allowed the high school to hire a full-time psychologist and additional counseling resources. Additionally, the high school implemented its Link Crew program, which pairs freshmen with juniors or seniors to make the transition to high school easier.
“A lot of our programs are intervention-based,” John Simons, principal at South Tahoe Middle School, said.
Those programs include an advocate from Live Violence Free, group counseling and crisis intervention.
South Tahoe Middle School also utilizes a group program called Timberwolves in Action.
“The group is trying to promote respect and acceptance, and they try to do nice things for kids on campus,” Simons said. “That might include shoutouts for different students over the public announcement speakers.”
Simons said the California Education Code specifically defines bullying as a form of violence, and it takes on different forms. According to the Education Code, it might constitute physical, verbal or emotional acts.
He added that it’s a behavior that should be dealt with as early as possible, especially in middle school.
“Middle school is an important time for kids to deal with coping skills,” Simons said.
Both Simons and Houck acknowledged that while schools or the district can address bullying on campus, cyber-bullying can be more complex.
“Cyber-bullying is challenging for us because often times it happens after the school day and away from campus,” Houck said. “When it does happen we have to partner with local law enforcement to address it, and we have to make sure that it doesn’t surface at the school during the day.”
Cyber-bullying, like any other form, can result in suspension if there is evidence that such behavior occurred.
Simons said there is only so much his school or the district can do to address online bullying behavior.
“We will investigate every situation, but there are certain limitations if it is happening off site and not affecting the school,” Simons said. “We might refer students to one of our groups, but the online bullying might not be handled with discipline.”
Another challenge is identifying behavior in general, according to Houck.
“It’s sometimes a challenge to identify true bullying behavior because there isn’t always a witness, and interactions between high school students often aren’t always one-sided,” Houck said.
He added that resources would be available to both parties to address the behavior.
Often the best response is by providing students with the tools to either ignore or discourage bullying behavior in the future.
“It is important to teach our youth to have the tools and skills to not be victims,” Houck said. “It’s very hard to do sometimes, and it takes a lot of practice and support from teachers, counselors and parents.”