RPS defines bullying and making strides to improve students’ mental health

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(ABC 6 News) – Rochester Public Schools is learning how to better help students struggling with mental health issues.

Back in June, RPS unanimously approved a three-year strategic plan to improve education in the district and create a robust mental health support system. During tonight’s meeting, met with one of the District-Wide Initiatives for Systems Change (DISC) to go over what is working and where they can improve.

Disc Team 10 has been focusing its efforts on establishing a sustainable system. Presenting data from a student needs assessment that was given to 5th, 8th, 9th, and 11th graders in the district.

Over 30% of girls in 8th and 9th grade say they have long-term mental health, behavioral or emotional problems. While nearly 50% of high school juniors answered yes as well.

Superintendent Kent Pakel tells us they are seeing some promising indicators that the strategic plan is working. Including improvements in discipline and an increase in funds coming into the district from the federal government.

“Money doesn’t solve everything, but it’s important,” Pekel said. “Those are some really really smart organizations deciding to invest those resources in Rochester Public Schools when they also have a lot of other options to consider.”

Some other findings were how comfortable students are talking with a school counselor or social worker. Many answered they are not comfortable. The highest percentage comes from 8th-grade boys.

Bullying was another item on the agenda.

Angie McAndrews, the principal Kellogg Middle School was one of several speakers to discuss how the school district should define bullying.

McAndrews and other speakers say that two things that constitute bullying are an imbalance of power and repeated behavior.

“I think those consistently need to be pieces that we are considering and looking at when we are identifying whether or not a behavior is bullying or not,” McAndrews said. “I think lots of times there are conflicts between students, especially middle school students, but I don’t know that they always result in something we identify as bullying based on that definition.”

The panel broke down some examples of student behavior that is not considered bullying including:

  • Friendly Teasing – This is meant to be playful and funny for both students.
  • Hurtful Teasing – Involves bringing up a personal event that is aimed to upset another student.
  • Peer Conflicts – This happens occasionally or accidentally.

If parents think their child is being bullied at school, they say to report conflicts to the school’s counselor as soon as they can so they can get to bottom of it.