In terms of the bullying issue in the Grand County School District — especially in light of the suicide of a middle school student early this year — the district has been looking inward in a way they never had to before. According to Grand County High School (GCHS) Principal Dr. Stephen Hren, bullying is an issue that often goes underreported.
“[Bullying] is always present,” Hren said. “At levels, it varies from year to year. From feedback we’ve seen ... it doesn’t seem like a huge issue overall. Obviously it always happens, it doesn’t stop entirely. It is something we are always aware of but a lot of it doesn’t go reported.”
The district began to question and examine if there was a bullying problem in the schools last year according to Hren, and the administration at GCHS began to take actions at the beginning of the 2017 school year to assess whether an issue existed.
According to GCHS counselor Derrick Cook, the administration is clear about what they have discovered — bullying is often an issue that manifests itself in a number of ways.
“Bullying happens at different degrees and sometimes we are unaware that [there is] bullying,” Cook said. “So is bullying happening, yes. I think that sometimes it is really subtle and I think that sometimes it is really obvious. However, even though it may be obvious and experienced, I’m not sure it is always reported.”
According to Cook, he began working at the start of the school year to integrate new curriculum into all English classes that includes lessons concerned with character development and bullying. Cook also said he is aware that this action is not going to be the ultimate solution for bullying in the district — and it was never intended to.
“Ultimately, increasing the peer culture to where students are holding themselves accountable is the best way to solve bullying.” Cook said. “I think students are fairly open about [talking] to faculty about bullying, however they fear the repercussions of it. The students that are being bullied fear being bullied even more.”
Some students are also noticing the destructive aspects of bullying within the district.
“I think other students are quick to call out someone else if they aren’t acting in a way that is comfortable to them,” said GCHS junior Hailey Lawley. “I think in a lot of ways students at [GCHS] are really inclusive. If you are proud of what you are doing students will let you own that. On the other hand, students are really good at picking out insecurities of others. I think students want to compare themselves to each other and feel superior. That’s just the culture.”
Isabella Walter, a senior at GCHS, shares Lawley’s sentiment.
“I don’t think bullying is exactly a crippling issue,” Walter said. “It doesn’t occur in a way that is in-your-face or even on a day-to-day basis. Bullying happens in a lot of subtle ways, but if it ever happens to you it never feels subtle.”