City school officials botched reports of rampant bullying in violation of state law, a blistering new audit by State Controller Thomas DiNapoli charges.
The city schools have been under fire for how they’ve mishandled bullying for years, and in March settled a federal class action lawsuit over the issue by creating new protocols for reporting, tracking and addressing bullying in schools, where reports of harassment have exploded in recent years.
DiNapoli released an audit Wednesday showing city educators failed to follow state guidelines for reporting bullying and harassment to the state under the Dignity for All Students Act of 2010, which requires schools to report such incidents to the state and take steps to address issues when warranted.
“Even before school officials report bullying and discrimination to the state, there seems to be confusion at the local level over what needs to be reported,” DiNapoli said.
“Underreporting and late reporting of bullying puts students at risk of further harassment,” he added. “The city’s Department of Education can and should do more to protect students.”
DiNapoli’s audit of 25 schools found incidents were not always recorded because staff differed on when something had to be reported.
Staff at some schools told auditors that incidents were only reported if there was a physical fight, or that behavior had to occur three times to qualify as bullying, or that an incident might be minimized to protect a college-bound student.
They also told auditors that only certain incidents were reported because recording all the incidents between students was too onerous.
DiNaopli’s office said those are all violations of the state guidelines.
Education Department spokeswoman Miranda Barbot said the school officials are spending $8 million in anti-bullying programs and increasing training for school staff on how to report and address bullying.
“Our schools must be safe, welcoming environments for all students,” Barbot said. “We’ve already re-organized our safety office, added staff and a data tracker, and are now completing a daily review of all bullying incidents.”