LANCASTER, N.Y. - Lancaster high school is one of 133 schools in Western New York that reported zero incidents for the 2015-2016 school year.
What stands out about Lancaster High School is that, with nearly 2,000 students, it is the largest school in Erie County, and this was the second year in a row it had no incidents to report.
"I think that the piece of this is the investigation and semantics," Principal Cesar Marchioli tells 2 On Your Side. "Every one of the incidents that is reported to us is investigated thoroughly by our assistant principals and a lot of times incorporating our school resource officer from the Lancaster Police Department."
The principal and assistant principal admit they get roughly 100 reports a year from students and parents. The vast majority of those reports are cyber-bullying.
But they claim it doesn't get reported to the state because it either get resolved, is found to be a back-and-forth situation between two students, or it doesn't make it past the investigative phase for lack of evidence.
Assistant Principal Terry Adamec blames social media and apps like Snapchat, where messages and pictures disappear shortly after they're viewed.
"It happens all the time where kids are mean to each other and we have to deal with it," Adamec said. "We do occasionally have instances where someone will call someone a derogatory name and we will deal with it because that's wrong and we're not going to allow that to happen. However, if that behavior stops and it doesn't go on and we're not aware that it happens again, is that a bullying incident? Because it hasn't happened over time. It hasn't been repeated over time, to our knowledge."
But the state says an incident which falls under the Dignity For All Students Act, New York's anti-bullying law, doesn't have to happen more than once to be reportable.
It can be a single act that substantially interferes with education, well-being, or fear for physical safety.
"I think the disconnect is how we've been trained what bullying is, the definition of bullying, and what we're expected to report to the state education department," Adamec said.
Marchioli adds, "I think, the number, the sheer number of schools you have with zero reporting, will tell you that that's what many of us are dealing with at the end."
Channel 2 spoke with some Lancaster students about the school climate and the resources available to them should they encounter harassment, discrimination or cyber-bullying.
They showed us the reporting forms they have readily available, the easy access they have to the school resource officer, the programs and support groups in place, as well as the teachers they trust to reach out to should they have something to report.
DASA requires that all schools/school districts have a reporting form available on their website.
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