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Secondary students think Burbank Unified needs to do more to end bullying

About two-thirds of Burbank Unified secondary students experienced or know classmates who endured bullying, according to a district survey.

Nearly the same number also don’t think their schools have effective antibullying policies, while even more don’t trust teachers enough to report incidents to them.

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Burbank Unified conducted a school-climate survey for students and staff in March and then a second survey for parents in July asking about their thoughts regarding issues such as school safety, teaching and learning as well as bullying.

The results were released during a school board meeting late last month.

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Although the district did receive some favorable responses, bullying was a black eye.

About 65% of district students responded “that students experienced bullying at school.”

Almost all versions of bullying increased districtwide, according to information gathered previously.

Bullying based on physical appearance was highest, at 53%, and was most on the rise from the previous year, up 8%.

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Bullying based on sexual orientation rose 6%, to 35%, while bullying regarding disabilities was up 5%, to 24%. Gender-based bullying saw a 5% rise, to 24%, gender-identity intimidation climbed 4%, to 35% , and race-based bullying inched up 2%, to 34%.

The only metric that went down was religion-based bullying, which dropped 1%, to 16%.

“The question we asked [to students] is ‘are you aware of someone that has been bullied?’” Supt. Matt Hill said. “You could have multiple students talking about the same incident of one child being bullied, so that’s something we have to factor in.”

Hill added, “We don’t want to minimize this, though. We still have a lot of work to do.”

While many students said they experienced bullying, only a few told those in authority about the incidents, according to the survey.

Only 14% said they “felt comfortable reporting incidents of bullying to teachers,” with 30% of respondents saying they spoke to friends.

“We have been continuing to increase support,” Hill said. “One is training for all employees. We’re doing training this year that all employees will go through by the end of the school year, focusing on identifying areas of bullying: how do you address that, how do you work with students?”

The biggest reason why students don’t report bullying is a “fear of being identified,” which is how 50% responded.

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About 32% of students thought their school’s rules against bullying and verbal abuse were effective, down 4% from past information gathered.

Parents were also unhappy, as only 49% said district rules were effective, which marked a 10% drop.

While 55% of district staff thought their schools had a “proactive antibullying campaign or program,” only 47% thought employee training was effective.

Beyond bullying, the survey also measured school safety.

Students felt safe going to and from school at a 77% clip, up 5%. About 73% of parents felt their children were safe at school, which was an 11% decline, while the number of staff members thinking students were safe dropped 12%, to 79%.

The survey listed three areas of concern: improvement in school safety, mental health and bullying, better communication from district leadership and parent familiarity with major district initiatives and support.

A record 1,880 students, 2,225 parents and 64 community members took part in the survey. Staff participation, however, continued to drop from 747 in 2016 to 422 this year.

“In order to optimize the amount of respondents this year, we opened the survey for students … before testing and then timed the parent survey to open alongside the start of registration in mid-July,” said Tom Kissinger, the district’s assistant superintendent of instructional services.

Burroughs High led in student responses, with 40%, followed by 32% from Burbank High, 12% from John Muir Middle School and 10% from Jordan Middle School. Students at Luther Burbank Middle School, Monterey High and Community Day School did not participate above 2%.

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