Under The Radar: News 12 report finds bullying under-reported at schools citywide

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For children and teens, bullying takes many forms -- it happens online, on playgrounds and in classrooms. A Team 12 investigation has found under-reporting of bullying all across New York City.

The family of Jadah Gill says they're sharing the story of their 16-year-old daughter so people can see how bullying affects children.

"She said these girls are bullying me - they're posting bad stuff about me -- and it's too much," says Tricia Gill-Blackman, Jadah's mother.

Jadah's family says she was attacked in class by three girls at a Brooklyn high school. Despite meeting with school counselors after the attack, her mother says she wasn't the same as she was before.

DATA: 2018 School Safety Data

Gill was a cheerleader, and her mother says she was popular, but attitudes toward her changed when she no longer wanted to be friends with a group of girls from school. Her family says she reported bullying to school administrators, but thinks staff didn't take proper precautions to keep her daughter safe.

The teen's mother filed a police report and transferred her daughter to another school.

Bullying has made headlines multiple times this year -- a Bronx ninth-grader jumped 34 flights to her death after her family says she was body-shamed and sexually harassed for five months. A lawsuit says school administrators did not take action after her cries for help.

An 18-year-old stabbed two of his classmates at Urban Assembly for Wildlife Conservation, killing one of them. A lawyer says he lashed out after years of abuse from students.

Councilman Ritchie Torres passed two bills in an effort to improve reporting of bullying. The legislation requires the city to inform students of anti-bullying resources, mental health counseling and bullying hotlines. It also mandates the Department of Education have an online portal where parents and students can report bullying.

"You have schools in some of the roughest neighborhoods in the city that report zero instances of bullying, there is a real gap between what is actually transpiring on the ground and what's being reported," says Torres.

School administrators require each bullying incident to be entered into a database, which are later made available to anyone who wants to access them. But according to an audit by state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the numbers don't add up.

"The issue really was that in some of the schools in the city, they were interpreting that there needed to be a pattern of multiple incidents before there was a reporting, but in fact the state requirements are one incident or more, so it can be one incident that should trigger a report," says DiNapoli.

News 12's reporting found schools were likely not properly identifying and reporting bullying or cyberbullying incidents in schools. An examination of the 2018 school safety education climate report found multiple schools in the Bronx reported zero bullying or cyberbullying incidents.

Similar trends emerged in Brooklyn -- one school with 869 students reported zero incidents.

An analyzing of DiNapoli's audit also cites a Brooklyn assistant principal at James Madison High School saying, "Minor altercations and infractions are not entered in OORS (the city's online reporting system) if no physical fights took place."

A principal at Lyons Community School also said, "We don't put everything in," citing they have an internal reporting system.

HELP LINKS
Advocate Outreach -- Help line: (866) 427-6033
Bullying reporting tip sheet
Bullying prevention guide for DOE schools
Bullying prevention guide for charter schools

The comptroller's office says P.S. 86 in the Bronx is one of 25 schools where bullying typically had to be repeated for it to be entered once. It also depended on what was said and its severity. There were no incidents reported in the school from 2015 through 2017.

The comptroller says he is preparing a new audit to verify if schools have made adequate changes. Changes the Gill family wants to see.

"Somebody's kid will seriously get hurt and lose their life. Once that life is gone you can't bring it back," says Gill-Blackman.

The Department of Education responded to News 12's report, saying in part, "Every student deserves to feel safe and welcome in an environment free of bullying, and we're focused on this work. We're making record investments in teaching students how to recognize their emotions and solve the root cause of conflict, and this fall we launched an online tool that makes it easier for students and families to report and receive updates on an investigation into bullying."

 

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