High school principal, guidance counselor weigh in on bullying
NEW BLOOMFIELD —
Simonsen Ninth Grade Center Principal Ben Meldrum and Guidance Counselor Tim Ritter said they constantly face the topic of bullying in their roles. The two spend extensive amounts of time investigating each individual bullying case that is reported at the school, and also work to educate parents and students about the topic.
"A lot of times we find out about it via students," Meldrum said. "Whether it's the student that's the victim or it's somebody that's witnessed it. They come down and let us know. Typically they go to their counselor first."
Each student at Simonsen is required to fill out an anti-bullying agreement form on the second day of school. Ritter said this sets a precedent for what is expected from students. He said they explain the way in which students can report bullying and how they can remain anonymous. One aspect of bullying they try to be upfront about is that investigations take time.
"We have to give everyone a fair chance," Ritter said. "There's a lot of times where it's more 50/50 than what we originally hear. You do have to fully investigate and not assume anything."
Both professionals said they have seen bullying change over the course of their careers. Ritter said technology has made it more difficult to investigate.
"Everyone has a cellphone now," he said. "Everyone has some sort of device that they can send a message on, and unfortunately that is harder to see. To me that's been the biggest shift in my time...even though we had cellphones eight years go, more so now than then."
Meldrum said people are becoming more aware of bullying and the impact it has.
"Prior to legislation and things like that, getting involved, and cases that we've seen on TV and that have gone to more severe outcomes because of bullying, we just haven't been as aware of it as a society necessarily," he said. "It's always taking place, but I think the impacts that is has on kids these days with the increase in mental health within our society, the bullying has a bigger impact than it may have had on kids in the past."