hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

School News

October 5, 2011

Bullying crackdown gets results

One year after the creation of the state's anti-bullying law, Haverhill school officials said they are seeing positive results.

Principals said the district's new system for reporting bullying incidents has allowed them to crack down quickly.

Though thankful for the increased protection, some parents say the rules don't go far enough in protecting their children and punishing bullies.

Haverhill High Principal Bernard Nangle said that about a year ago, school officials became aware of a website called "Haverhill's Phattest" that made fun of the looks and clothing of some students from Haverhill, Whittier Regional High and Andover High. He said a parent complained about the site to school officials, who contacted police. They were able to eliminate the site from the Internet, but did not discover who created it, he said.

Nangle said the site contained photos of about 20 students. It existed for three weeks, he said.

School officials said they continue to be vigilant of bullying, whether it is electronic as in the website, verbal or physical.

Nangle said Haverhill High officials have received three reports of bullying this year and about 40 reports last year. Of those, 15 required action beyond the reporting of the incident, he said. Most of the reports involved name-calling, while the second most common was harassing text messages, he said.

School Committee member Paul Magliocchetti said he plans to raise the bullying issue at an upcoming School Committee meeting. He said the number of incidents at Haverhill High seems excessive.

"One is too many," he said. "The kids have to understand we're living in a very different world now."

The anti-bullying law, passed in May of 2010 following the suicides of two Massachusetts students, requires school districts to create methods of reporting and documenting bullying in school, online or elsewhere. In addition, the law also requires classes about bullying intervention for both students and educators.

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