Students debate prevalence of bullying, harassment at NT

Bullying has been statistically decreasing at NT throughout the past few years

The privilege with living in the North Shore comes with a statistically more peaceful area of living, a lower poverty rate, and an above-average high school education thanks to the income-level taxes the North Shore receives.

However, like many high schools, bullying is an unfortunate occurrence that can have a significant impact on the victims.

Senior India Glennon weighed in on witnessing bullying, adding that she believes New Trier does not work hard enough to alleviate the issue.

“I have seen bullying. Though people make an effort to be subtle, it is clearly obvious. I have known others, including myself, that have experienced harsh or rude treatment from peers. I don’t think New Trier is doing enough to aid those who need help, and I don’t think that bringing it up via intervention will suffice.”

Glennon added that the recent derogatory language presentation shown to adviseries added to incidents of bullying.

“The way racial issues were brought up was a terrible idea, and I’m afraid that if they do something along the same lines with bullying, it will just come across as a joke to the students,” stated Glennon.

In contrast to Glennon’s

experience, senior Laura Lien added that she had never experienced bullying.

“In my four years at New Trier, I’m grateful I’ve never experienced bullying. A s for my circle of friends, I’ve never heard of them being bullied and I have never witnessed it. As for programs to combat bullying at New Trier, I can’t really think of any.”

As for the work New Trier has implemented to combat bullying, Assistant Superintendent for Student Services Timothy Hayes weighed in on national programs losing effectiveness in high school due to lack of specificity.

“The work that we’re doing around equity is very much tied to our anti-bullying work. [Other] programs loose effectiveness in high school because you need to be a little more nuanced in talking through how does [bullying] actually happens. What is the difference between someone being mean and someone being a bully?”

The New Trier 2019-2020 Guidebook defines bullying as “When a student asserts or attempts to assert physical or psychological power over, or is cruel to, another student who is perceived to be weaker.”

The guidebook goes on to list examples of behavior that is perceived as bullying as intolerable and subject to disciplinary action.

Regarding disciplinary action for bullying, Hayes offered a form of action that helps students realize others’ perspective.

“A lot of our disciplinary work has been that we’re really looking into the restorative justice practices [which] are really helpful for a situation where there may be bullying happening between two students or a group of students. [We ask] how do you restore a positive relationship in those incidents and I think these practices have a lot of promise for how we can resolve conflicts that may lead to bullying in the school.”

Adding on to Hayes’ comment regarding the practice, Assistant Principal for Student Services Scott Williams stated, “Restorative justices are things like trying to understand both sides of [the situation] and having both parties trying to understand each other. We have not purposely used the phrase ‘restorative justice,’ but we’ve been using those types of skills for years.”

According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, on-school property bullying decreased from 25% in 2012 to 18% in 2019, as well as cyber- bullying from 17% in 2012 to 15% in 2019.

“The national average is built on a larger scale, from across the country from different geographical regions— urban, suburban, and rural— and many different schools,” said Hayes.

“What we want, of course, is that [school] number to be zero,” Hayes added.

While restorative justice practices are being used to resolve bullying, senior Rosie Kyriakopoulos encourages anti-bullying programs to be enforced.

“In order for New Trier to be the community it strives to be, they should make helpful programs more [visible]. An [anti-bullying] program may exist, but if it doesn’t make itself known, then how useful can it be. With such a big school, we need to make sure everyone’s needs are met, even the ones we tend to keep hush- hush.”

Regarding the decrease in bullying at New Trier, Hayes stated the survey would not tell the administration if there is a specific reason.

However, his guess is one of the numbers of things implemented at the school.

“One [guess] is the conversations we’ve had about how students treat one another and [that] bullying has evolved over that time period.”

He added that to combat bullying and raise awareness, the school created the Names Project, which has evolved into the Identity Project,
for freshman.

“We’ve been running the Identity Project for more than six years. We started to talk about what it means to be different in our school and how we treat one another. We [ask] how do we make our school a more welcoming place?” stated Hayes.

Within recent years, the school paired with an organization called CASEL to help promote positive behaviors within the student body.

“CASEL, the [Collaborative] for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning talks about social-emotional skills as different domains and how to learn and drill down into them. What would it mean to start to be very intentional about teaching those skills? And those skills have to do with self-awareness, self-management, relationship skills, social awareness.”

Hayes added that such important skills will allow students to have more positive relationships with each other, and that the program can also help adults.

“Talking more about that and being more intentional about [it] will also help students avoid getting into those situations where it feels like one student is bullying another person,” said Hayes.