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Students respond to survey

by Merrie Leininger

Overcrowding and clashes between social groups may be the cause of many of the fights and bullying on the Douglas High School campus, a survey revealed.

The DHS Peer Court, students who listen to and discipline classmates who choose to go before them instead of the juvenile court, will compare the amount of threats, bullying and intimidation in the school before and after the court’s inception using the survey.

According to the survey, returned by 81 percent of students, or 1,072 of a total of 1,322 students, 22.7 percent believe students intimidating other students is a problem at DHS. Eighty-nine students, or 8.3 percent, said they do not feel safe at school, and 32 percent said student conflicts often result in physical violence.

The survey is a requirement of the $67,000 Justice Department grant that funds the peer court. The one-year grant pays $6.50 an hour to the 10 student representatives and for the overtime used by the five Douglas County Sheriff’s officers involved in the court and the repeat offender team. Ten students also volunteered to be a part of peer court. The repeat offender team follows up with continuing student problems and works with families.

DCSO Sheriff Ron Pierini said the survey results did not come as a surprise.

“We knew there was a concern with these issues at the school. We don’t feel it is out of the ordinary from any other school in the country. What we’re dealing with is 5 percent of the kids that are disruptive and that affects kids feeling comfortable in school,” he said, pointing out that 52 students, or 4.9 percent, said they have missed school because of fear of bullying or fights.

The most students, 48.2 percent, said social group differences/conflicts cause students to threaten or intimidate others. Overcrowding was listed as the cause by 30 percent of students and boyfriend/girlfriend problems were the cause listed by 29.4 percent.

However, Pierini said, the peer court, which sprang from the Community Action Team, is a step in the right direction, along with the student hotline, 783-SAFE.

“I think we are light years ahead of the rest of the country in dealing with preventing issues like this from occurring. I bet we’re in the top 3 percent by taking the initiative,” he said.

Pierini pointed out the School Safety Task Force is also doing all it can. It is organizing a parent symposium on school safety, planned for Oct. 20. Sheriff John Stone and Public Information Officer Steve Davis of Littleton, Colo. who dealt with the aftermath of school shootings this year, will be speakers at the symposium, which will focus on prevention methods.

n Student reaction. Student members of the peer court said they thought the numbers on the survey were low.

“I was amazed it was as low as it was. You always hear about the bad stuff, like there was a fight at lunch. I thought it was a lot more prevalent. It made me realize we are ahead of the game. It will be a lot less difficult to control,” said Lauren Davis, a senior.

The peer court, which started in January, spent six months forming ground rules and determining how large a role it would play in mediation and discipline.

The students also made up and distributed the survey. They heard their first case shortly before school ended for the year on two girls who got into a fight.

Copies of the survey are available at the sheriff’s office and the school district office for free.

BREAK-OUT BOX

Students who said they had been the victim of intimidation:

Once or twice-40.4 percent; 3-5 times-6/9 percent; 6-10 times-2.3 times; more than 10 times-4.2 percent

Students who said they missed school because of fear of fights or intimidation:

Once or twice-7 percent; 3-5 times-1.2 percent; 6-10 times-0.3 percent; more than 10 times-0.7 percent

Students said if they were faced with intimidation or threats from omer students they would talk to: a friend-84 percent; a parent-52.9 percent; a teacher-24.3 percent; no one-24.6 percent; a counselor/administrator-20.8 percent; a church figure-18.2 percent; peer helpers-17.6 percent; police-13.9 percent.

Students listed what they thought would help make the school more safe:

Create more space for student socializing-76.7 percent; offer a conflict resolution program run by students-33.7 percent; provide diversity training to help students learn to respect difference and similarities-31.2 percent; provide workshops to improve communication between teachers and students-27.9 percent; add more security guards during events-28.5 percent; and increase the visibility of teachers and adults during passing and break times-28 percent.