Niagara Gazette

July 23, 2013

Lew-Port administrators tackling bullying from all angles

By Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Lewiston-Porter High School Principal Paul Casseri knows bullying is one of the major issues school children face in 2013. He knows it happens in many new ways teachers and administrators aren't always keen to, as well as in potentially violent, face-to-face encounters.

Keeping track of it all is still a requirement under New York's Dignity For All Students Act, though, no matter which form it takes.

"It may have happened from home computer to home computer," he said Tuesday as he delivered an updated code of conduct presentation to the Lew-Port School Board. "Just because it happens at home, a student might be subjected to a less-than-positive school experience. So we still have to address it."

Casseri, along with the middle school team of Principal Dean Ramirez and Assistant Principal Andrew Krazmien, presented the updated policies designed to guide students, employees, parents and visitors in how to act while on campus.

There wasn't much change proposed from the district's operations last year, but the response to perceived and alleged bullying is one of the major updates to the code, which will be adopted next month by the school board.

Casseri said teachers and staff are expected to immediately confront instances of bullying reported as soon as possible. To comply, the high school has two point-people set up to handle all reports and to facilitate whatever intervention is necessary, be it sit-downs or stricter detentions or suspensions.

"If someone brings it to our attention, we have to follow it up," he said. "Sometimes, it's just a meeting. Sometimes, it's more severe. We look at every incident on its face."

Bullying in Lewiston-Porter, Casseri said, has been significantly classified more and more as cyberbullying, which involves social interactions on websites like Facebook, Twitter and Internet blogs or even messaging through cell phones.

Speaking of cell phones, Casseri updated the board on the status of the district's bold choice last year to allow cell activity in non-classroom settings for high school students. And it may have worked in at least keeping instances of cyberbullying in check, if not reduced it slightly.

"I felt like there was less cyberbullying last year," Casseri said. "We won't know for sure until we get our reports."

Addressing bullying concerns has been a major trend in education law for the past three years in New York. Though Dignity For All Students and its sweeping changes in reporting requirements was passed before it happened, the suicide of Williamsville student Jamey Rodemeyer in September 2011 has pushed for greater awareness of emotional struggles by students.

But Lew-Port has had a track record of following up on cases involving bullying, according to Superintendent R. Christopher Roser, who said the serious response dates back even before he joined the district.

"The biggest thing this year is the responses to bullying," he said. "Lewiston-Porter has always been sure any incident has been dealt with by administrators since I've been here and even before."

Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.