Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

Local News

March 15, 2013

Bullying/harassment can be hard to define

A concerned Knoxville High School parent called to try to find out where the line is drawn between “horseplay” among students and the level of bullying or harassment. KHS Principal Kevin Crawford says context and details are vital to the school’s ability to hold bullies accountable while protecting others.

The incident described to the Journal-Express involved the woman’s son, who has special needs. He apparently was playing with another special needs student, wrestling with each other around 9 a.m. Tuesday, March 5. At least two hours later, she said her son was minding his own business when another student came up behind him and choked him.

The choked student allegedly passed out. In the days since, the mother says he has had headaches. She is disappointed by the response of the school personnel when they found him unconscious.

When the mother’s story was relayed to Crawford, he said more details were provided than he received when the incident happened. Dealing with any incident of bullying or harassment is not easy, Crawford said, as there are no “black and white” situations.

Iowa’s anti-bullying laws discuss 18 specific areas. Most incidents he faces do not fit in any of them.

“Anytime you get a group of people together, there will be conflicts,” Crawford said. Harassment and bullying often require situations to be ongoing, according to the law. Isolated incidents do not fall under Iowa’s anti-bullying laws.

In most cases, according to Crawford, when the accused bully is approached by a staff member, he or she often claims to be unaware that the alleged victim does not like what they do. Most issues are resolved when the accused bullies become aware of the problem.

The mother who called said her son did not fight back, because he was afraid that the incident would then be defined as a fight. He would face consequences, just as the accused bully would.

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