Bullying Continues at Los Angeles Schools

LOS ANGELES (CNS) — One in five Los Angeles high school students and one in four elementary students say they were bullied last school year, according to a survey conducted as part of a newly released internal Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) audit.

Although the extent of bullying found by LAUSD’s Office of Inspector General is not necessarily out of line with national figures, the audit suggests that students are getting less help than they should.

“Most teachers and staff did not receive high quality training on bullying prevention on an annual basis,” according to the report, which recommends additional training for both teachers and parents.

The report headlined the fact that roughly 40 percent of students and parents surveyed were satisfied with the schools’ efforts to prevent and manage bullying. But details in the 243-page audit highlighted areas where schools fall short.

There are fewer staff members overseeing anti-bullying efforts than in other comparable school districts. Some staff members weren’t trained to take on the additional responsibilities. And at one LAUSD campus, the person in charge of handling bullying complaints was “not aware that she was appointed for this role,” the report stated.

A bullying complaint log designed to record all incidents was used at only one of 23 schools visited by auditors, with staffers complaining that it was “time consuming and cumbersome” to use.

Some used other systems to track bullying, but one-third of the 23 schools had no records of any incidents.

“Some site administrators said they do not have any bullying incidents,” the report stated.

The Office of Inspector General said the lack of records made it more likely that the district wasn’t getting an accurate picture of what’s going on in the schools.

Superintendent Michelle King thanked the OIG for the report and said in a statement the district is a leader in anti-bullying efforts.

“L.A. Unified leads the nation in its anti-bullying efforts, with restorative justice, relationship-building and other dynamic programs that address bullying, hazing, intimidation or similar behavior,” she said.

King said the district would look for opportunities to provide more staff training and enhance reporting.

The student survey found that:  

— In elementary school, equal numbers of boys and girls said they’d been bullied. In middle and high school, it was more boys than girls;

— Bullying declines somewhat as students move into higher grades;

— 43 percent of kids bullied said they had been cyber-bullied;

— 13 percent of students said they had missed school because of bullying:

— 5 percent of kids admitted to bullying another student during the year.

The survey of students in 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th, 10th and 11th grades went out to 228 schools and 147 schools participated, according to the audit. The results did not vary much by geography.

A surprising amount of bullying occurs in the classroom, according to the survey results. In elementary school, the majority of incidents occurred on the playground, but 14 percent happened in a classroom. That percentage goes up to 29 percent in middle school and 34 percent by high school, ranking classrooms as the most likely place a student will be bullied.

“We remain committed to offering a safe and respectful teaching and learning environment that is free from obstacles that can impede student success,’’ King said.