PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - Palm Beach County reported the highest number of bullying incidents in all of Florida - more than 5,600 - over a three year span. The district defends those numbers and its anti-bullying tactics and said that the most reported incidents may not mean the most bullying. 5,568 bullying incidents were reported in county schools between 2007 to 2010.
"We're not trying to hide anything. So if our numbers are high, that could be a good thing," said Nat Harrington, spokesperson for the school district. Harrington said the district's higher number of reported incidents shows students and staff are confronting bullying more than before. "We're not afraid of the numbers. We don't care what the numbers are," he said.
The department of education requires districts to report data on bullying but does not instruct districts about how those numbers should be reported. Palm Beach County's Safe Schools Institute said that is a huge factor and may account for higher numbers here. Palm Beach County's number of reported bullying incidents is much higher than other districts, including some districts that are larger. Miami-Dade Public School District, which has twice as many students as Palm Beach County, reported about 800 bullying incidents over the same three year span.
Pamela Ross says her son was bullied years ago. "He had been thrown in the towel bin by the other boys," she said. Ross said her son's troubles came long before the arrival of social media and the increase in cyber-bullying that takes place today. "I think most people start recognizing that it's wrong and harmful," said Ross.
Bullying incidents decreased by more than 130 the 2010-2011 school year, according to new district data. The district says all of their numbers are "realistic" and they are improving. "There are kids that are not reporting things, and that's also an equal travesty," said Harrington. The spokesman said these new numbers really do show that school administrators, staff and students themselves are all taking more of an initiative when it comes to bullying.
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