I-Team: Cincinnati Public Schools roll out new way of tracking reports of bullying

Cincy schools hope this will fix bullying issues
Posted at 2:13 PM, Mar 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-12 06:47:04-04

CINCINNATI -- In life, Gabriel Taye’s singing voice was angelic. 

In death, his family hopes his voice raises awareness about bullying and suicide. 

Now, about a year after the 8-year-old took his own life, Cincinnati Public Schools officials say new data show increasing awareness of bullying at the West Price Hill school Taye attended. 

Cincinnati Public Schools spokeswoman Lauren Worley said the district’s new approach to collecting reports of bullying is helping officials track incidents across all 62 schools.

The changes stemmed, in part, from a 9 On Your Side I-Team investigation in January that revealed errors in some of the school district’s data from previous school years. 

A year ago, Cincinnati Public Schools reported zero instances of bullying at Carson Elementary School, the school Taye attended. But new numbers for the first semester of this school year show 26 reports of bullying. 

MORE: In past reports on bullying, Cincinnati Public Schools parents weren't getting the whole picture

A school district social worker determined half of the reports were actual cases of bullying. 

“It certainly means that there’s a problem,” Worley said. “It also doesn’t mean there wasn’t a problem before."

Surveillance footage from Taye’s final day of school shows him unconscious on the bathroom floor. Two days later, he took his own life. 

The district said it determined no one had bullied Taye that day. In a wrongful death lawsuit, Taye’s family members argue the boy was the victim of escalating aggression -- six incidents in the third grade alone, they say, including punching and shoving. 

Now, Worley said school officials are trying to be as transparent as possible about reports of bullying. 

“You have to be collecting apples to apples to make apples to apples comparisons and what we clearly found is we weren’t collecting data in all the same ways,” Worley said. “So instead of sweeping that under the rug and trying to hide from that, our commitment has been to be open and transparent about it.”

Worley said the jump in reports is due to a new, standardized way of collecting data at schools across the district. School officials consider not only the number of cases, but how many have been substantiated, unsubstantiated and resolved.

“Now we’re going to each school, to each principal, to the social worker team almost as a checklist, ‘Do we have the same numbers,’” Worley said. 

Worley said she also attributes that number to the fact that more students, faculty and staff know how to report an instance of bullying. A button front and center on the district's website allows people to report bullying. 

“There’s some schools where you might consider a spike or an increased number of reported cases. We see that as a good thing,” Worley said. “That means that parents, or loved ones, or family members or community members are reporting what they think could be a case of bullying.”

Other changes have been made. Teachers and staff get more intensive training, and the district hired a social worker with a background in stress management.

Jennifer Branch, the attorney for Taye’s family, commended the district’s efforts on reporting instances of bullying. 

“Carson Elementary’s reports of bullying during the first semester increased from zero last year to 26 this year,” Branch said in a statement. “I commend CPS for being more candid with the community about the level of violence at Carson. 

“Publishing more accurate data and acknowledging the problems only helps parents know the danger their children face at school. The more transparent schools are about the problems the children have in school, the better parents can act to protect their children."

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