OGDEN — A Weber County school administrator believes the national debate over politics and race may be trickling down to children.
The Weber School District superintendent said he's seen an uptick in "intolerant behavior" and he and other school officials are trying to figure out how to stop it.
Lately, bullying seems to have gotten worse, said Weber School District spokesman Lane Findlay
“Over the last couple of years, particularly this past year, there seems to be an increase in cyberbullying, issues like that. We've sat down and tried to identify what's the cause of this, why are we seeing this uptick in those type of behaviors and what students are dealing with,” he said.
School officials are seeing a broad spectrum of conduct that tends to be concerning and often disturbing, he said. “It just seems to be across the board, and we are not quite sure why that is.”
Weber School District Superintendent Jeff Stephens posted a message on the district's website, saying: "Recently, we have been experiencing an escalation of intolerant behavior in our schools. Instances of fighting, taunting, cyberbullying and harassment are on the rise. One could easily conclude that the current national discourse in areas such as politics, religious tolerance, race relations, free speech, etc. is filtering into our schools and having a substantial impact.”
One of the reasons for this uptick in these types of behaviors could be technology, Findlay said.
It used to be that when students had problems at school, they left the problems there when they went home, Findlay said.
“Now with social media and those types of things, those problems can follow them home; and so in the case of bullying, maybe there is something that occurs in the classroom and then that continues after school, at home, on the weekends, and so we’re just concerned that we are seeing some of the behaviors.”
In October, the district disciplined students who recorded a video that, when played backward, appeared to show them using a racial slur.
In his note, Stephens tells teachers to look for teachable moments and to help create a safe learning environment. “Get involved. Intervene. Maybe they're negative things, but how can you turn them into a learning opportunity?” Findlay said.
He said such incidents are taken seriously.
“There’s a real big push as far as working with parents. They’re just not kicked out the door for a few days. The counselor’s involved. If it’s more serious, there’s a risk assessment being done,” Findlay said
And such efforts need to go well beyond the school halls, he said.
“It's not just a school effort. It's our parents and community leaders. How do we have a holistic approach to some of the things that we're dealing with?" he said.
Findlay said a committee with employees of different backgrounds has been formed to look at a number of issues and work with outside entities to come up with solutions.
Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc