Pasco County Superintendent Kurt Browning's focus this year is bullying

7:25 PM, Aug 14, 2013   |    comments
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Hudson, Florida -- Most Bay area students return to class on Monday. In a back to school press conference Wednesday, Pasco school officials focused on school safety and bullying.

Pasco School Superintendent Kurt Browning is asking all school staff, starting with administrators, to put in more time with students. Browning says his message this year is the cost to care is time if they want to fight bullying at schools such as Fivay High School.

"We admit as a District we are not running from the fact we have a bullying issue," says Browning.

Combating bullying is the Pasco School District's mission this school year and changing the culture within schools is the goal.

"We as a district need to model a culture of caring," he says.

Parents have previously told 10 News their kids do not feel safe at Fivay. One student compared the school to a "prison" and another student said there is too much bullying and fights.

RELATED: Students, parents protest Fivay; lawsuits pending

Between December and March, a number of incidents occurred at the school including: a 16-year-old student who committed suicide; a science teacher, who was a former wrestler, using poor judgment in writing violent test questions; and, in one day, three students were arrested -- one for allegedly bringing three knives to school, and two for allegedly having sex with an underage girl in the media center while the other recorded the act and distributed it on his cell phone.

MORE: District officials step in at troubled Fivay High School

While change at Fivay is needed, Superintendent Kurt Browning says top leadership will stay.

SEE ALSO: Fivay High: Many blame problems on administration

"Ms. Stone still principal I have confidence in her ability to lead Fivay High School. We have made assistant principal changes to help change the culture."

Browning says attacking the bullying problem begins with school staff.

"They cannot say, 'don't worry, it's nothing they need to deal with it'. We have to be proactive, not reactive," he says. 

Browning says there are policies and procedures in place. This year, legislators clearly defined cyber-bullying giving schools more power to intervene if there is cyber-bullying happening away from school. School administrators have three days to respond to a bullying complaint and 10 days to wrap up the investigation.

This year, students can anonymously report bullying on the District or school's website by looking for the "Together We Stand" link.

Browning says parents play a role too.

"Parents can't [just] drop their kids off at school and pick them up in the afternoon. They've got to provide discipline and structure."

As for Fivay and other high schools with bullying issues, Browning says they are continuously monitoring Fivay and all schools across the district.

During the summer, the district held a bullying summit with educators, parents, community leaders and student groups from each high school. The student groups are also drawing up an action plan to build a positive school climate. Fivay's student leadership plans to build school spirit through pep rallies and educate students on issues such as bullying.

Isabel Mascarenas

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