Last updated: July 25. 2013 3:14AM - 231 Views
By Debbie Rolen

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CHARLESTON (AP) — About half of reported incidents of student bullying in West Virginia occur in middle schools, according to a new state report.

The report by the Department of Education says 26 percent of bullying cases occur in high schools and 18 percent occur in elementary schools.

The report is based on data from the 2011-2012, the most recent available. During the period, schools reported a total 6,313 cases in which students were disciplined for bullying, harassment and intimidation. Seventy-three percent of the students who were disciplined were boys.

West Virginia Schools Superintendent Jim Phares presented the report Tuesday to a legislative interim committee.

“The middle schools, that’s where it occurs,” Phares told lawmakers. “Part of it is the growth and lack of maturity of the students.”

About a third of the reported incidents involved harassment based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.

Upshur County schools had the highest bullying rate, followed by Mingo, Gilmer, Lewis and Pocahontas counties.

“All of our kids have the right to go to school and feel safe and not be pushed around,” Phares said.

The report recommended that schools improve all student behavior and “overall conditions for learning,” saying school assemblies and “one-shot” class lessons are less effective.

The report also recommended providing extra training to teachers on how to promote appropriate student behavior and handle bullying incidents. Suspensions for bullying should be served in school instead of at home so that students are not “deprived of needed supports,” the report said.

“We’re already doing all kinds of professional development and special programs,” Phares told lawmakers.

He sais that a 19-member Middle School Commission established by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will study ways to reduce bullying at middle schools.

The commission was created to examine ways to improve student achievement.

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