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BOE creates committee to address bullying

Being bullied can change someone’s life. In fact, it has been blamed for taking lives. And those doing the bullying can be setting themselves up for a lifetime of troubled behavior that can and has turned bullies into inmates.

Board of Education member Janet Rose said she asked that the issue be on the board’s February agenda after she received three or four phone calls from parents about their children being bullied, one so severely that the student left the school.

Rose pointed to the positive message of the Rachel’s Challenge Program, that was introduced in the schools about three years ago and that impacted many students. She suggested that the program be repeated every several years, along with the program the Sheriff’s Office delivers about bullying.

Board chairman Dr. Bill Dobney suggested that a committee be created to come up with a countywide plan to address bullying. He asked that Virginia Arrington, administrative services coordinator, chair the committee and that it contain one guidance counselor from the elementary, middle and high school levels; one parent from each of those levels; one student board member from each high school; one SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) advisor and one SADD member.

Chairman Dobney also introduced the J.P. Knapp Early College High School SADD advisors and members that he invited to the work session to give their input.

The chairman and board members Rose and Will Crodick commended the job SADD members did with their presentation on bullying at a recent luncheon at JPKECHS that was attended by the head of the national SADD organization.

JPKECHS SADD advisors Bernice Crowther and Lauren Woods said at the work session that they have looked at each school’s handbook and policy on bullying. Some schools just had a paragraph about it or definition, others detailed the consequences for each offense, others did not, some addressed cyberbullying and the option for making anonymous reports about bullying.

Woods said that students need to know what the consequences are and policies should be more consistent, particularly between middle school and high school, as Crowther also suggested building on the SADD message of encouraging positive decision making and positive friendships, while mentoring younger kids as well.

Crodick said he liked the idea of involving SADD and mentoring younger, elementary students, suggesting the message needs to get to the kids early. Chairman Dobney added that students may be more likely to listen to what other students have to say, such as the SADD members, rather than adults.

“It’s got to be talked about, by everybody,” Rose said, including at PTA meetings, schoolwide assemblies and that parents need to be involved.

Chairman Dobney commented that parents can currently find information online at stopbullying.gov.

Many students who are bullied do not like to talk about it, but Rose pointed out that the board “can’t fix something we don’t know about.”