Hawaii schools should adopt anti-bullying programs to protect students who are overweight, transgendered or from foreign countries, according to a 95-page report sent to the state Department of Education.
The report by the Safe Schools Community Advisory Committee says that bullying is “a common occurrence in schools” that teachers sometimes allow to happen.
Hawaii schools should create anti-bullying programs by 2010, give annual training for all employees about harassment and discrimination, and require students to attend assemblies to discuss the problem, the committee said.
The state public school system, which educates nearly 180,000 students, lacks uniform guidelines for administrators to report and respond to bullying on their campuses.
“There were probably a lot of unreported incidents happening at the schools,” said committee member Jean Nakasato, an educational specialist with the Education Department’s student support section.
The committee recommended that the Department of Education hire staff to investigate, respond and document cases of students being teased because of weight, looks, economic status, race religion, national origin and sexual orientation.
More than half of middle school students and 44 percent of high school students in the state reported being bullied at least once a year, according to the 2005 Hawaii Youth Risk Behavior Surveys.
Bullying increases the risk of drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, depression and suicide, according to the 23-persoin Safe Schools committee.
Education officials have scheduled a meeting next month with Superintendent Pat Hamamoto to discuss the committee’s report, Nakasato said.
“Harassment is a common occurrence in schools,” the report said. Bullies sometimes “face little or no repercussions for their actions.”
“We have to make sure that trainings are going to happen within each complex at each school yearly,” said Camaron Miyamoto, director of the University of Hawaii’s student service office who helped write the report. “As there is new faculty and staff hired, they’ll be informed of policies, procedures and the rights of students.”
The plan doesn’t estimate the cost of implementing the recommendations.
But money shouldn’t be a barrier to making schools safe, said Breene Harimoto, a school board member with the committee.
“Realizing that some of it may cost money, we may need to make a request for the Legislature or maybe just prioritize some of our own money,” he said.