Las Vegas schools struggle with
how to deal with bullies
By Leavitt Wells
May 5, 2009 | LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Hazing isn't new
to Clark County School District, according to Judy Wells,
a student advocate for protecting against bullying,
teasing, hazing and initiations. The district claims
to have a "Zero Tolerance Policy" on bullying,
teasing and hazing. The problem is students and staff
alike don't know how to handle the intimidation issue.
"Please don't come to school," Michael LoBello, a
freshman, was told by one of his friends. "If you do,
we've got your back, but we've been getting warnings
that you'll get beat up."
LoBello plays football at Spring Valley High School
in Las Vegas. Earlier that day LoBello had reported
two of his teammates to the Dean's office after he saw
them wearing t-shirts that contained obscene comments
directed at himself and another player on the team.
"I was hurt," LoBello said.
"Something needs to be done about this issue," said
"The big key is to educate," Wells said. "You have
to teach, educate [and] discipline," which is exactly
what Wells said she is doing.
Wells said she is in the process of developing a system
to be implemented in the school districts across the
nation. "The goal is to create a mandate throughout
the schools, so that when bullying is reported there
will be a system that each of the schools will follow,"
she said. In addition to standards for punishing the
culprits, Wells said she plan contains procedures for
protecting victims and whistle-blowers.
Wells said students need opportunities to report the
bullying, teasing, hazing, or initiation. Ideally, victims
would report the behavior to teachers, deans, and other
staff, but it is also important to create anonymous
ways to report.
Once someone reports the behavior, the school needs
to promise it will follow through with the issue and
will handle it quickly and efficiently.
The school also needs to reassure and protect the
victim at the same time, which is something that LoBello
didn't feel was offered to him after he reported the
"My principal gave me two options: 1) stay home for
the next three days, or 2) leave my classes five minutes
early so that I wouldn't have to see them."
Wells also said the new system would encourage counseling,
especially CBT (cogitative behavior therapy), which
involves replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.
Wells is focusing on not just the victim, but the
bully as well. She plans to have the school call the
bully in and notify his or her parents. The school will
suspend the student and even consider expulsion, depending
on the action.
LoBello found the lack of school intervention frustrating.
The students who wore the t-shirts were only RPC'd (requested
parent conference), and they were back at school the
following day. This caused LoBello's friends to warn
Wells also said not only will the bully be suspended,
but he or she will also be removed from further extracurricular
activities such as sports, dance, theater, chess club,
and so forth.
Bullies will have to fulfill service hours and be
allowed to perform complete restitution to the victim.
"The whole point is to show that there is a zero tolerance
toward this kind of behavior," said Wells.
Finally, Wells suggests the bully receive the same
form of counseling and therapy as the victim.
"These policies and mandates can be put into action
now, but it also needs to have heavy stimulation of
educating our students and parents," Wells explained.
Wells plans to implement the program with the extracurricular
activities in high school. Her plan requires showing
a video to all clubs and teams explaining what bullying,
teasing, hazing, and initiation are. Students will then
be taught why they can't participate in such behavior,
and what the disciplinary actions will be if they choose
From there, the curriculum will be taught in the life
strategies and health classrooms in the high schools,
and eventually be implemented in the junior highs and
elementary schools. "We need to get this program
to the kindergartners . . . so that once [they] are
in high school; there are no longer fires that need
It may take a little while to implement the program
throughout all the schools but Wells said she is looking
forward to the challenge.
Since the incident at school, LoBello has talked with
the bullies, who apologized. One even said, "I didn't
know it was hurting you that much." Wells also comments
that while giving presentations to various groups, teenagers
have said to her, "I knew it wasn't right, but I just
didn't know it would hurt that bad."
LoBello also likes the idea of the new system. "I
think that is a great system to make bullies stop bullying,"
he said. "I mean, it won't completely cease, but it
will decrease drastically."