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Survey: Bullying is down in Rosemount schools

Efforts to fight bullying appear to be paying off in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District.

According to results from the most recent Minnesota Student Survey, the number of students who report being harassed or bullied has gone down by more than 40 percentage points at some grade levels.

The comparison isn’t perfect. The Minnesota Student Survey is given every three years, and there were some changes made for the version given in 2013. Last year’s survey addressed students in fifth, eighth, ninth and 11th grades. Previous surveys focused on sixth, ninth and 12th graders.

In 2010, 55 percent of sixth graders reported they had been bullied or harassed in the 30 days before they took the survey. Last year, only 13 percent of sixth graders reported being bullied. In ninth grade, the number dropped from 38 percent in 2010 to 13 percent last year.

“It was really heartening to see, because we’ve really worked hard at our level to be on it,” Rosemount Middle School principal Mary Thompson said.

Secondary education director Mark Parr said bullying has become a focus in recent years.

“We could see that the incidents of bullying were going up,” he said. “It’s had a lot of attention from the media, rightfully so. Given the fact the incidents were going up, we needed to intervene in a more formal way.”

District 196 schools at all levels have implemented plans in recent years to address bullying. Elementary schools use something Steps to Respect. District middle schools use a program called Olweus.

RMS counselor Betsy Rose said there has been a clear difference since the school started with Olweus, which among other things asks students to take time during their homeroom to talk about topics such as respect, communication and leadership.

The school surveyed students in 2012 before launching Olweus and found that while 89 percent of students said they had felt sorry for or wanted to help a student who was being bullied, only 12 percent had actually tried to step in. When the school repeated the survey in 2013, 74 percent of students reported trying to help a bullied classmate.

“We’re like, ‘Holy smokes, that went way up,’” Rose said. “Who knows what they’re actually doing, but at least from their perception that’s changed.”

The school has also seen a 22 percent reduction in students being referred for bad behavior.

The problem isn’t likely to go away anytime soon, but Rose is happy with the progress she’s seen.

“There will be bullying in middle school, but I feel like kids are so much more aware of it and willing to step in when it happens,” she said.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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