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Bullying, Cyber-bullying

Two weeks ago, our newspaper(s) and website(s) published an account of a few students who are concerned about an aquatics coach who they believe “demeans students, throws tantrums and tosses balls at students heads…” among other allegations.
A handful of anxious students at Temple City High School aquatics program met twice with administration officials at Temple City High School in recent weeks to air concerns about their coach , Linda Simons. The alleged inappropriate behavior on the part of this particular coach was brought to our attention via phone calls and emails from concerned parents and students.
“With Rutgers heavy on the minds of students, we thought her fate was sealed, but the good old boy system keeps coach in her position with just a verbal warning,” said one senior who contacted us two weeks ago. Rutgers former basketball coach Mike Rice, was fired in April after video footage of the fiery coach manhandling and shouting profanities as well as gay slurs at players during practices was aired nationally.
After speaking with several involved individuals, it was determined that a story was indeed warranted. We made no judgment, but merely stated the facts according to witnesses.
We contacted Mary Jo Fosselman King, Principal at Temple City High School, for comment two weeks ago who confirmed:
“I assure you that we are thoroughly investigating and following up on all allegations regarding Mrs. Simons. As this is a personnel issue, I will not comment on specifics in regards to our employee or students, but I am deeply saddened that our students have contacted you.” Mary Jo King said in an email on Tuesday morning.
We also attempted to get comment from the school board but again were told as it was a personnel issue, there would be “no comment.” We also attempted to contact Coach Simons without success.
Since our story was published, there has been a groundswell of emails, letters and phone calls to this office both pro and con. Most of the calls, letters and emails have been anonymous for “fear of reprisal” according to one caller who is a parent.
We published 82 comments on our website and subsequently refused to publish countless others due to inappropriate and sometimes insensitive remarks which frequently included profanity and personal insults as well as attacks bordering on cyber-cruelty or as it may better known, cyber-bullying.
It was not our intention to cause harm to any parties involved in the aquatics program, administration nor anyone else. Moreover, it is our moral responsibility as a newspaper to report both sides of an issue with fairness and accuracy which hopefully and ultimately will lead us to the truth.
One rather odd comment came to us about use of the photograph supplied to us by a student which was taken during a public event at the school. There are no restrictions for photography as we understand, unless someone specifically requests not to be in the image or has a signed letter from that student’s parent or legal guardian saying that this is so.
The commenter whose moniker is “TC Parent” said, “You are printing photo’s (SIC) of underage students in swim attire.” Now, as long as newspapers have existed, local papers and national publications have printed pictures of young athletes in competition. We fail to see the relevance on this issue and disturbed by the implications therein.
As a family newspaper of general circulation it is our firm belief that everyone in the community has a voice.
Curiously, not one attributed Letter to the Editor has crossed my desk on this issue, it has all be via the website. The majority of the 85 plus comments were anonymous.
We feel strongly that if there is an important issue at hand, transparency is key to resolving the issue, or at least coming to some agreement.
Bullying is never acceptable, especially in public schools. If there is a teacher or a coach at fault, the administration is required to investigate. By the same token, it is equally unacceptable for students or parents to publically defame one another or start a cyber-bullying campaign.
The statistics are staggering:
1. Over 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year.
2. 1 in 4 teachers see nothing wrong with bullying and will only intervene 4 percent of the time.
3. Approximately 160,000 teens skip school every day because of bullying.
4. 1 in 7 students in grades K-12 is either a bully or a victim of bullying.
5. 56 percent of students have personally witnessed some type of bullying at school.
6. Over two-thirds of students believe that schools respond poorly to bullying, with a high percentage of students believing that adult help is infrequent and ineffective.
7. 71 percent of students report incidents of bullying as a problem at their school.
8. 90 percent of 4th through 8th graders report being victims of bullying.
9. 1 out 10 students drop out of school because of repeated bullying.
10. Harassment and bullying have been linked to 75 percent of school-shooting incidents.
11. Physical bullying increases in elementary school, peaks in middle school and declines in high school. Verbal abuse, on the other hand, remains constant.

By Terry Miller

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