I-TEAM: Area school districts track bullying incidents

School bullying has become such a pervasive problem that one local school district holds a kindness retreat to prevent it from happening.

It was a shocking day for Todd Potter when he found out his three-year-old was a bully.

"It really broke our hearts. We didn't know what to do," he said.

It's a strong label to put on a three-year-old, but one Potter took seriously.

"You don't want a small child to learn that so early on," said Potter.

He knows all too well the damage bullying can do. He said he was bullied in school, and still sees a counselor to deal with the hurt of his bullying.

That's one reason the Slinger School District is using a new system to keep tabs on bullies and the students impacted by them.

"[There's] probably nothing harder on a student than a bullying incident. It makes it hard to come to school. It makes it challenging to concentrate and focus on learning," explained Daren Sievers, the superintendent of the district.

Their student database now allows the district to track and monitor bullying incidents in great detail.

"[We can] see if there's trends in who the bully is, but also we can track if there's trends in who the victims are so we can do work on both sides of the complaint," said Sievers. While this system is new to Slinger, the Federal Department of Education Office of Civil Rights collects information from school districts every couple years.

According to the education department data, in 2013, Slinger reported 13 bullying incidents. 7 were based on sex, 6 were based on race, color or national origin.

The Burlington School District also serves about the same number of students. 2013 data from that district shows they had 22 bullying incidents reported; 18 based on sex, 5 on race, color, or national origin and 4 based on disability.

Milwaukee Public Schools serves about 79,000 students. They had 33 bullying incidents reported in 2013: 9 for both sex and race, color or national origin, 15 for disability.

FIND YOUR SCHOOL'S BULLYING DATA HERE

The numbers might be higher than reported, since students don't always report when they've been bullied.

As they track the data, Slinger brings in programming to address the issues, too. They hold kindness retreats at the elementary level and have anti-bullying assemblies for middle and high-schoolers.

"Behaviors and kindness not so unlike a foreign language, they say the earlier you learn a foreign language the better," said Sievers.

So, Potter and his wife have ramped up their efforts to help Graham learn.

"If you're good, look how great it is when someone's happy," explained Potter.

The State of Wisconsin wanted to create a program to track bullying in schools, but when the I-Team reached out to the Department of Public Instruction, they said no districts had applied to participate.

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