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Report: Nebraska Can Do More to Stop Bullying

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Tuesday, October 22, 2019   

LINCOLN, Neb. — October is national Bullying Prevention Month, and a new ACLU Nebraska report shows the problem continues to impact too many of the state's students.

Rose Godinez, legal and policy counsel with the group, pointed to one middle school student, named Margaret in the report, who is black. Margaret has faced racial slurs and even death threats. Her mom responded by reaching out to teachers, the principal and the school superintendent to resolve the issue, with no success.

"Margaret now feels like she has to eat lunch in the bathroom instead of eating in the cafeteria just because her peers won't even let her sit down,” Godinez said. “The bullying at school has affected Margaret so much that she has now been diagnosed with PTSD, and has increasingly had suicidal thoughts."

Godinez said Margaret's story is not an outlier. The report found 1-in-5 Nebraska kids is bullied because of their sex, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration or disability status. Godinez said she hopes the report's findings will encourage Nebraska lawmakers to review and update statewide anti-bullying laws.

She said targeted kids need to be better protected, and she added kids displaying bullying behavior also need due-process protections and more mental-health counseling to avoid exacerbating the school-to-prison pipeline. Godinez pointed to best practices that all schools can put into practice.

"That will ensure that students' rights are protected, while at the same time making sure that we have a safe environment for students that is conducive to learning,” she said. “And, really, those two missions are not incompatible and, taken together, will provide all students a better chance of succeeding in our Nebraska schools."

The report's recommendations include requiring schools to publish a written copy of their anti-bullying policy, along with students' rights and protections and available support services. Schools should also assign a staff member to investigate all complaints in a timely manner, and allow students to file confidentially to foster student trust and prevent retaliation.


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