LETTER: ‘Bullying is not just a buzzword’

Staff Writer
The Destin Log

“Progress, not perfection” has been the motto of Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson of the Okaloosa County School District since being elected to represent the 30,000 students and over 3,000 faculty and staff members.  Your school system is a vital part of our community and on any given weekday, 15 percent of Okaloosa’s population is at one of your schools.

Recently there was an article in the Destin Log about bullying in schools. “Bullying” is defined by Florida Law and Okaloosa School Board policy as “systemically and chronically inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress on one or more students or employees.” 

“Bullying” is not just a buzzword to us, but a key concern of your school’s administration, faculty and staff.   Inappropriate or aggressive behavior is still met with disciplinary and corrective action, even if it does not meet the state’s definition for “bullying.”  The state annually conducts an audit of our policy and procedures in order to verify our district’s compliance with state statutes. 

In a recent report, Florida schools ranked near the top in prevention of bullying. (1) Does that mean we have it perfect?  No! But we constantly work on progress. Nearly 20 years ago our students in Baker created a video called “Tell Somebody.”  We have updated that video for 2015 and will show it to all 30,000 students. This video features students talking to students about how to handle situations that may arise in their schools.

Our results are proven in our very high academic rankings in the State of Florida.  We placed 4th in the highest percent of “A” schools, with 36 earning that designation, including Destin Middle School. Destin Middle ranks 31st out of 845 public middle schools in the state of Florida in academic performance.

But education must be done in a safe environment. While we train our faculty and have an outstanding School Resource Officer program with the Okaloosa Sheriff’s office, at the end of the day, parental involvement is still the determining factor in student success. 

We ask that parents and their student(s) view the “Tell Somebody” video together, and spend a few minutes discussing it. The video can be viewed by visiting our website at www.okaloosaschools.com  and clicking the “Tell Somebody” link.  If you do not have internet access and would like to view the video, please contact your child’s school principal to schedule a viewing. 

On behalf of the Superintendent, School Board and all of our district employees, I want to assure you that your school system takes bullying, and student safety, seriously, and we need your involvement as we continue to make progress towards perfection.

Henry Kelley, Program Director Office of Community Affairs Okaloosa County School District