The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 31, 2011

EPS investigates bullying

By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID — When a bullying incident is brought to the attention of an Enid school, an investigation follows, according to Enid Public Schools’ Assistant Superintendent Ruth Ann Erdner.

But if no one brings an incident to the attention of the school, nothing can be done, she said.

Amber Fitzgerald, EPS school and community relations director, said the district tries to make sure there are plenty of adults in the hallway while students are moving between classes so they might witness any bullying; but if adults do not witness it, the schools hope the victim reports it.

Erdner said the building principal ultimately is responsible for investigation of bullying incidents, but he or she might have the school counselor handle the questions and answers.

Sometimes the incidents are documented by use of written forms. Other times the investigation is kept verbal, Erdner said. Usually whether it’s verbal or written is a choice driven by the person who brings forth the bullying complaint. Some people are not going to be comfortable putting their complaint in writing.

“I think if you require they do the paperwork, you’re going to miss some of it — and we don’t want that,” Erdner said.

Both the person making the report and the person who allegedly is the bully are talked to, Erdner said. So are any witnesses who might have seen what happened.

“They want to talk to all the parties so they can find out what’s going on,” Erdner said.

Parents may be contacted, because they might want the option of being at the school when the incident is discussed.

It might take two or three days to complete the investigation, Erdner said.

“If you’re going to put a stop to it, you’ve got to get to the details and find out what’s happening,” she said.

The investigator is the one who decides what actions will be taken if his or her conclusion is that the incident qualifies as bullying or harassment. He or she might decide the matter is resolved by talking to the parties or that further action is needed. At the extreme end, a bully could end up being expelled.

Either way, the victim may never know what happened to the bully.

“You may not know what has happened to the other party because of privacy issues,”  Fitzgerald said.