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Facebook, Twitter, Instagram — Ridgefield Public Schools is having a more difficult time combating bullying on these social media platforms than in school hallways.
That was the main takeaway from the district’s Comprehensive School Climate Inventory (CSCI) survey that was taken by students, parents and faculty members last spring.
“It’s not that much of a surprise,” said Assistant Superintendent Kimberly Beck, who presented the survey’s findings to the Board of Education Monday night.
“It’s stuff we grapple with even as adults,” she said.
The survey has 13 different categories that are rated on a scale of “1” — the most negative — to “5,” the most positive.
Besides social media, which generated an average score of a little more than “3” among students, parents and faculty members, the category that scored the lowest was “sense of social-emotional security.”
Beck explained that this component of the survey tracks of how students feel about verbal abuse, teasing and exclusion in schools.
“The students, as well as the parents and faculty members, feel safe from physical harm in the school,” said Beck. “But where we see another dip is in the verbal bullying and the exclusion, and that’s not just online — that’s in school.”
In 11 of the other 13 categories, Ridgefield students, parents and faculty gave a score of higher than 3.5 — an overall “positive” score.
Categories with positive scores included physical safety, respect for diversity, and support for learning.
Two outliers were sense of social-emotional security and social media, which both averaged scores of slightly above 3 — good enough for a “neutral” score, but leaving room to be desired.
“We’ve fallen below where we want to see ourselves in the future,” Beck said.
Superintendent Karen Baldwin agreed.
“It’s consistent throughout the district — across students, parents and faculty,” she said about the low scores recorded for social media — a category that also includes emailing and text messaging.
“It’s not where we want it to be, and I think this survey opened up some more questions for us to answer,” she added.
The assistant superintendent said the school district is in between the third (“action planning”) and fourth stage (implementing) in its climate improvement process.
“These are the results, what’s next are updates in December that will include more evidence-based data that we will use to make changes on how we handle social-emotional security needs both in the schools and outside of them,” she said during the almost hour-long presentation.
Board member Doug Silver called the results “qualitative, not quantitative.”
“There’s nothing comparative to suggest a certain quantity of incidents that have happened …
my fear is we’re using this data as hammers instead of flashlights,” he said. “I just want it to get better,” he said.
Beck explained that the goal of the survey is to shine a “spotlight” on key areas that are worth addressing, not to make any permanent decisions or statements on a certain area.
“What we were shown here is that there’s some work to be done,” she said.