School of Pain: Local leaders pledge to take tough stance against bullying
Top elected leaders in the Hudson Valley say they are pledging to take action against the bullying epidemic in local schools.
Parents and students were brave enough to share their stories in a recent News 12 open forum on bullying – and it turns out that some of the most powerful lawmakers were listening.
"I think it's really important for our schools and our leaders and teachers to take responsibility for safe classrooms," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
Westchester District Attorney Anthony Scarpino pledged to take a tough stance on an issue that hits close to home.
Scarpino says he still carries events that happened to him in seventh grade.
"We've become alerted to the fact this is unacceptable and it has to stop, and we have to take an aggressive approach to this for the safety of the students themselves," says Scarpino.
State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has already issued a scathing report, criticizing schools for not doing a better job of reporting
"Generally, across the state, I'd say we've seen too many gaps in the reporting, and we're going to continue to monitor," he says.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer says that we ought to be honest about reporting it and we ought to be honest about dealing with it.
Rep. Nita Lowey agreed and said that bullying should be reported like any other crime.
Under the state's bullying laws, every district is supposed to report cases of bullying to the state, but not all do.
However, there may be a reason for the lack of reporting. An incident can only be reported to the Board of Education in one category. For example, a bullying incident that involved assault or a violent threat would not get reported as bullying – it would get reported as a potential crime.
Advocates say that leads to an underreporting of the issue.
During the 2016-2017 school year, nearly half of the schools in the Hudson Valley failed to report a single incident of bullying.
Some parents feel the bigger issue is school leaders wanting to avoid a stain on their records.
"No one wants to be the school that reports," said one mother who attended the forum.
David Carraturro believes that Tuckahoe school leaders failed to stop the daily barrage of bullying that ultimately led to his 18-year-old daughter's suicide earlier this year.
"The district I believe was following protocol. I think the protocol was wrong," he says.