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Ban Bullying at Mahwah High School

A look into how more anti-bullying measures should be instituted at the high school and all schools.

Is the leadership at Mahwah High School attune to the pervasive student social culture of bullying? Sadly, it does not appear so because bullying either directly, indirectly or in cyberspace is the lay of the land.  

Children are relentlessly picked on, ridiculed, whispered about, threatened, demeaned, and hypocritically treated by their peers. Of course, this behavior is unacceptable by the leadership, so they suggest to fill out a form, lodge a complaint. But that does not solve the fundamental bullying problem since it is so widespread and not just isolated incidents. 

Besides, children fear repercussions; the prey fear the predator.

What is sorely needed and has been enacted in other high schools across the land, is basic workshops, daily reminders, hall posters teaching and reminding children to be just plain nice to each other until it becomes convention and peer pressure would not tolerate anything other than civilized behavior.

Children should not fear going to school; it should be a pleasant experience, the good of learning the primary focus. Countless high schools across the country have institutued anti-bullying programs successfully, as a recent PBS documentary has witnessed. It is imperative Mahwah High School do the same for the sake of our children because only the leadership can set the proper learning environment.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Andy Schmidt January 15, 2013 at 11:17 PM
Interesting Dana. Up to the middle school, I have seen anti-bullying messages to be a persistent and repeated theme of assemblies, contests and other activities throughout the year (to the point that the repetiton becomes a source of annoyance to the students - but that may not be a bad thing). So - to me as a parent, a lot of attention and energy seemed to be directed at that topic. Are you saying that this stops once they enter High School?
Olga S. January 16, 2013 at 03:18 PM
That's great that they do that in the middle school. I haven't seen a poster, assembly, seminar, or discussion in the high school about this at all. I've heard from my kids how students outright call each other names in the hallways in front of their peers, rumors are relentlessly spread about the "unpopular" kids, kids are shunned when not liked, and if you ask some kids they will tell you outright they hate going to school there because of what they perceive to be "drama" when, in fact, it's bullying. Sad..It's pretty sad there's this kind of environment when we're sending our kids there to have an education but all they can focus on is what new saga is going to occur.
Andy Schmidt January 16, 2013 at 03:46 PM
Olga! If, in your first-hand experience, the high school principal is not proactively tending to this subject as much as needed, then this is something you should bring up at a school board meeting. Certainly, good learning results require a good learning environment. As you likely know from when your kid(s) were in the lower grades, it gets an enormous amount of attention at JK and RR. (The grammar schools also cover it - but there it's probably not to referred to as bullying/intimidation yet, but community building, learning for everyone to "be friends" and "being respectful".)
Dana Moran January 16, 2013 at 04:04 PM
Andy, I agree with what you stated above, but I also think parents should form a coalition and join forces together to solve this problem. One can't do it alone. My own child has been a direct target of bullying and the first thing that's thrown out is the HIB form, which is one step but not the only step. My child chose not to fill this form out for fear of what would happen amongst the peers at school. More shunning, more whispering, more rumors, more verbal attacks. The culture is not one of just niceness. I went to a public school for middle school and upon entering a private high school I was struck (even way back then) of how all the kids were just nice. You know what? I followed. It was rude back then to even talk to someone with your back turned to someone else. We all used to say, "excuse my back." I CAN'T imagine this happening in MHS. They purposefully turn their backs and whisper while looking at their target. It has to be instilled daily that this won't be tolerated. Sure high school is always full of drama and some think it's the worst years, but maybe we as a society are too quick to say oh, it's high school and brush it off at that. There are schools all over the country that in high schools pummel the idea of being nice to one another, not an ounce of bullying will be tolerated. I agree, this should be addressed at school board meetings!!
Ted Baker January 16, 2013 at 08:39 PM
Thats why my kids are learning karate. Where the school fails, street justice prevails. "What did you say about my jeans?" "How about a spinning roundhouse kick to the sternum!!" Hiiiyahh!
Regenbogen January 17, 2013 at 03:13 AM
Andy, The Ridge had the highest number of actual bullying incidents in the 2011/2012 school year.
JMeyer January 17, 2013 at 04:00 AM
Ted, I don't think this should be taken lightly as your post suggests. This is a VERY real problem and if you ever watch news reports teenagers commit suicide over these situations. Something trivial about jeans is not bullying. Telling students to F*** off in the hallways and spreading rumors is. It's rampant at the high school..an epidemic. Something needs to be done!
Regenbogen January 17, 2013 at 04:52 AM
Andy, The article is on Patch.
Regenbogen January 17, 2013 at 02:10 PM
Oh Andy You are just above us all with your superior knowledge of all matters!
Andy Schmidt January 17, 2013 at 05:07 PM
Actually: http://mahwah.patch.com/articles/district-confirms-14-acts-of-bullying-in-mahwah-schools-last-year When considering the student counts the highest number of initials reports were up to grade 5: The 3 elementary schools had a total of 1.8 reports per 100 students, and Joyce Kilmer even 1.9 per 100 -- while Ramapo Ridge had the lowest with 1.2 reports per hundred (1/3rd less). On the other hand, the 3 elementary schools dismissed almost all of these reports - while at Ramapo Ridge 60% were treated and thus counted as actual H/I/B - which IS indeed the "highest". Is the downward trend of initial reports from early grades to higher grades a question of less direct parent involvement? Does it mean as kids "stand on their own" in higher grades, they rather not report cases that should have been? That would be worrysome. Or is it that with experience, parents become better at diffentiating? That may be good. Are the staff at Ramapo Ridge more willing to treat cases as H/I/B so that they can step into developing situations early on -- or is it because there truly is more going on in these grades? If you ARE interested in the HIB statistics, then it would be good to start an initiative that would look into and help explain those differences. In particular, if the same persons are targeted as they go through different schools, intervention is needed.
Andy Schmidt January 17, 2013 at 06:34 PM
Regenbogen - FEWER kids (per 100 students) reported being targeted at Ramapo Ridge than at the total of the 3 Elementary Schools, or at Joyce Kilmer. If anything, the attributes "highest" applies to the fact that this school then handled 60% of those cases as H/I/B instances, while the lower schools dismissed 80+% of them! If you were a kid (or parent of one) that honestly felt targeted, would you feel confident in a school where most reports are dismissed - or would you feel more supported by a school where the majority lead to some action? I hope we can at least agree that this is a complex matter that cannot be answered by some flippant one-liner?
Bob Rama January 18, 2013 at 08:48 PM
What a hit piece this is by some disgruntled parent. How did this pass as "news"? The BOE regularly updates the community on bullying that happens in the district. This rant would have been better presented to them. I know for a fact that the high school has had assemblies about dealing with Bullying and has motivational posters throughout the school. I am not positive, but I am pretty sure there are even clubs at the HS whose goals are anti-bullying. As far as the HIB form your son REFUSED to fill out, that is STATE LAW! How could you fault the school for making your son do this? They are following the EXACT protocol that the LAW says the school MUST follow! If you really believe there is an epidemic of bullying going on, then I would urge you to go to the BOE and present your case, which is the proper place to do so. That is their function in the school system. Otherwise, this slandering of our schools is completely unnecessary especially with the misinformation being spouted and the complete lack of any evidence besides a singular personal anecdote. This really sounds like one angry parent with one unresolved situation trying to create some conspiracy. Shameful.
JMeyer January 19, 2013 at 01:49 PM
Whoa, Bob-O-Rama, sounds to me like you're some disgruntled administrator who doesn't like to be put to task about what's seriously going on throughout the schools. Did you not read the article? The author says it bluntly...the prey fear the predator. If the above poster's son filed a HIB form what do YOU think his peers would do in school? Common sense..that wouldn't be too good for the kid. Slander you say? Slander is untruths. Maybe a poll should be taken in the school of how many kids feel bullied and that would knock your "slander" argument right out of the water. I imagine the author is a disgruntled parent...and you are not? Maybe your head should be yanked out of the sand to see what's really going on. HIB is voluntary and the student has to instigate it. If they FEAR repercussions from their peers it "ain't gonna happen." So, in fact, your blind eye is what's shameful.
Dana Moran January 19, 2013 at 03:09 PM
Bob, disgruntled parent? Is that what they label addressing serious problems these days? Oh wait, no, it's slander according to you. Slander is when it's not true. I think your comment is shameful because apparently you aren't acknowledging or are ignoring the fact this is a real problem. Either you're an administrator yourself or perhaps a parent whose child is actually an aggressor, but in either case what you've stated, to my knowledge, are gross inaccuracies. The only club in the school that even touches on bullying is the club for gay teens to seek refuge. Bullying doesn't limit itself to just homosexuals. To suggest there has been assemblies at school? Maybe that's your way of trying to shed a bright light on what's happening but never once this year has there been an assembly about bullying. This isn't misinformation. Have you spoken to at least a handful of kids? Well, I have and I've heard stories that would make your face turn red. From Internet bullying calling classmates fat ugly losers to photoshopping nude photos of another student and passing it around, to kids being harassed in the hallways, to rumors being spread, to students being ostracized...are you kidding me? This isn't evidence?? The burden of proof is on the school to show this ISN'T happening but it most certainly is and for you to be so flip and arrogant about it is, in fact, shameful.
Dana Moran January 21, 2013 at 02:39 PM
Bob, disgruntled parent? Is that what they label addressing serious problems these days? Oh wait, no, it's slander according to you. Slander is when it's not true. I think your comment is shameful because apparently you aren't acknowledging or are ignoring the fact this is a real problem. Either you're an administrator yourself or perhaps a parent whose child is actually an aggressor, but in either case what you've stated, to my knowledge, are gross inaccuracies. The only club in the school that even touches on bullying is the club for gay teens to seek refuge. Bullying doesn't limit itself to just homosexuals. To suggest there has been assemblies at school? Maybe that's your way of trying to shed a bright light on what's happening but never once this year has there been an assembly about bullying. This isn't misinformation. Have you spoken to at least a handful of kids? Well, I have and I've heard stories that would make your face turn red. From Internet bullying calling classmates fat ugly losers to photoshopping nude photos of another student and passing it around, to kids being harassed in the hallways, to rumors being spread, to students being ostracized...are you kidding me? This isn't evidence?? The burden of proof is on the school to show this ISN'T happening but it most certainly is and for you to be so flip and arrogant about it is, in fact, shameful.
Bob Rama January 22, 2013 at 12:50 AM
Please read what I write before you jump down my throat. I see you take offense to my characterization of your statements, but have no problem reciprocating with the same. I encouraged you to pursue it. If this is happening and true, then it needs to stop. There is no debating that. Schools are a community endeavor for sure. There is a very clear place for you to voice your concerns. Your blog would better serve the community as a whole if it were reported as a news report of you presenting your concerns directly to the BOE. I still urge you to do so. However, you also don't seem to understand the anti-bullying legislation Chris Christie signed as the toughest in the nation. It requires schools to follow certain protocols when bullying is reported. The district literally has no choice to do otherwise or they are in contempt of the law. As far as assemblies, I know over the years they have had anti-bullying/motivational themed assesmblies. I do not know specifically about this year. Have you inquired if any are coming up this year? As far as your statement of "this isnt evidence?", I would say it is evidence. And I urge you to go to the BOE if it is true that there is an epidemic. But if you want to have a real conversation about bullying, you should have a clear picture of what our schools are doing as well as an understanding of the new anti-bullying legislation before you can offer can offer a productive opinion. Also, just for the record, I am anti-bullying, too =)
Concerned Parent January 24, 2013 at 11:37 PM
The only problem my child had in MHS is being accused of bullying for nothing she did. It appears that the child making the claim is either looking for attention or her parents are looking to sue the school to get a free ride in a private school for her daughter. Imagine being pulled from class (missing a test) and being questioned. She came home extremely upset about the whole situation. I hope the child who is behind this gets some help. I know of her and her history of drama in the schools. Yet all she has to do is say "harassment" and any child she points to get pulled in for questioning. I have multiple children in the Mahwah school system and as far as I know, none of them have been bullied. They have all found their own place within the schools and have made some solid friendships. I am all for putting an end to bulling in our schools and communities. However, don’t be fooled. Just because a child says that he or she is being harassed, doesn’t mean that they are not the one doing the bullying.
mom and educator January 25, 2013 at 03:59 PM
Well said "Bob" and "Concerned Parent". I know first hand that there have been worshops and assemblies for parents and students alike starting in the elementary school and continuing through High School. The schools do care and, to the best of their ability, try and protect our children. The biggest problem is with the parents and children using the "claim" of bullying or harrasment to avoid looking at issues that need to be handled, issues bigger then those in the school setting. Issues where they look at their own child as always a victim and blame the schools the teachers, peers, rather them getting the child the help they may so desparetly need. It is the schools job to help protect children however....it is a parents responsibility to give children the coping skills to navigate through life and not always look to blame others for an inabilty to cope.
protective Momma Bear January 25, 2013 at 05:22 PM
"Well, I have and I've heard stories that would make your face turn red. From Internet bullying calling classmates fat ugly losers to photoshopping nude photos of another student and passing it around, to kids being harassed in the hallways, to rumors being spread, to students being ostracized." -Dana Moran We have all heard "those" stories, which by the way is not what is happening at MHS, and while it makes us think the "schools" are not doing anything, the schools are given guidelines and protocols by the State of NJ to follow. It sounds like you right now are being the bully. You don't like what someone said on a public forum and you jump on them, what are you teaching your child? Remember the old saying,"Three sides to EVERY" story", just because YOUR child says her friends don't like her anymore, does not make her friends bad people, that deserve the accusation of "bullying" place on their record. Tell your child to walk away, get your child off Facebook and Instagram and maybe just maybe she and YOU will find some peace. Be the PARENT here, NOT HER FRIEND, close her Facebook account, don't just "unfriend" the other girls. Protect your baby, I'm all for it, but remember when the other parents stand up and protect theirs, don't get upset.
JMeyer January 25, 2013 at 05:36 PM
After reading "mom and educator" and "concerned parent's" comments, I understand why now bullying is so prevalent in the schools. With mentalities like that, it's no wonder kids are getting things thrown at their heads or having naked photoshopped pictures of them being floated around the school...These kids should develop thick skins according to you all!! You know what? What goes on amongst the kids today is hurtful. It hurts a kids feelings when someone spreads a rumor about them or jeers and pokes fun at them. That is hurtful and the tone of the article was about kids being nice to each other, but why would we want that? They just need to toughen up because they all have this inability to cope.. iIckening.
protective Momma Bear January 25, 2013 at 06:02 PM
If the kids were properly taught by their parents to, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything", however, in my house the saying goes as such.."If you cant say something nice.. JUST keep your mouth shut". All parties involved have probably at one time, said something to the other, Could it be as innocent as "Hi" and the other child took it a wrong way , or it could have been something cruel, EITHER WAY.....all the children involved, are still children that need to be taught by their parents to walk away and not engage. Making accusations against those who are innocent, is just another way to say..I'm stomping my foot and not getting what I want. I venture the say the accuser probably had one or two things to say that was hurtful to the others but she didn't think so.
NJ Mom January 26, 2013 at 12:08 AM
Remember here that we are dealing with children. It is perfectly normal and has been perfectly normal since the dawn of schools for cliques to form. It seems to me that your child was not accepted into such a clique and now they are saying they are bullied. The purpose of the anti bullying law is to protect those that are actually bullied. Those that are being taunted relentlessly both online and in school, those who are different and are being picked on for it. The purpose of this law is not to protect children who are upset that their friends no longer want to hang out with them. Its a HUGE difference. While it would be nice if everybody got along, that is just not realistic, in school or in the real world. It makes one wonder what message your child is getting. What happens when they get a job and they are not invited to lunch with their co-workers? Will they be bullied in the workplace? I'd rather raise a strong child, not a victim.
Bob Rama January 27, 2013 at 05:08 PM
Here's what Dana suggests be done to curb the epidemic of bullying in our schools, especially at the HS: 1.) Basic workshops <--Read new HIB legislation. It's required. Unless you're claiming that our district isn't doing this, in which case you should pursue it. 2.) Daily reminders<--I agree. I would hope it is happening. 3.) Hall posters <--They already exist 4.) Teaching and reminding children to be just plain nice to each other<--I agree. However, I can't imagine that our schools wouldn't be trying to do this already, unless you know something specifically to the contrary. Isn't part of being academic your ability to work with others? 5.) Start having assemblies about bullying<--Schools have been doing this for years. Do you really think 1 assembly this year would have been the difference in this epidemic? Looks like most of what you suggest might already be in place. In fact, based on that checklist, I've not stated any "gross inaccuracies". If all these are already being done, which it looks like it might, what else should be done? Should our schools patrol Facebook and other social media? You slam the schools for the HIB process they are required to use. Is that fair? If you know of a true culture of bullying outside of the norms of teenage life, cliques and relationships, I would urge you to go to the BOE. If this is as serious and urgent as you are saying, why you would post this here instead of going to them directly? They are the way to affect change.
Pierce January 28, 2013 at 01:55 PM
I think all of you have missed the point of this article, which really speaks to me personally as a senior at MHS. I can say firsthand there hasn't been a seminar at school all year. Posters? Nonexistent. My sister is a sophomore at school and girls are way worse than the guys. This isn't about cliques or friends one day and not the next, this goes way beyond that. Sure there's the usual high school drama but I can tell you that the girls are downright vicious. It can make a student's life miserable there on a daily basis. And no, I don't think enough is done about it. I've seen my sister come home in tears from being picked on, made fun of repeatedly and relentlessly. I've seen a friend of hers beg her parents not to send her back to school the following year there because there is a nastiness among the girls that doesn't quit. This isn't a simple you can't sit by me at lunch story. This is you're not wearing the right clothes so I'll call you a loser, ugly, and tell you that every day because the sight of you makes me ill. So every one that's commented here hasn't lived through all this. I have cousins who live in other states and I can tell you with 100 percent accuracy this doesn't have to happen!!!!! Kids can be nice to each other or at LEAST coexist where their daily school life isn't a dreaded one. They hear these stories and are totally shocked. So all you who scratch it off as high school cliques and drama are totally misinformed.

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