New school policy targets bullying

Published 7:28 pm Friday, July 30, 2010

With the state legislature passing a bill requiring every schooldistrict to adopt a policy that prohibits bullying and harassment,the Brookhaven School District is cracking down on kids whooverstep their boundaries when giving each other a hard time.

District Superintendent Lea Barrett said there have always beendisciplinary measures in place, but that putting a name on thebullying issue has really helped focus the new policy that wasadopted into the handbook on Tuesday night at the school districtboard meeting.

“This addresses bullying per se,” she said. “According to the law,the school district has to define reasonable action as to what thestudent can do and what we should do, and we’ve laid thoseout.”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

A student has to report the behavior to a teacher, principal orcounselor, and then the policy spells out what needs to be done bythe district, whether it involves calling the parents or callingthe police.

“Our ultimate goal is to limit that behavior,” she said aboutbullying.

And all of the district’s employees will be trained to recognizeand understand the warning signs of bullying, Barrett said. It’snot just for teachers, either.

“The thing I’m most proud of is that we are actually having a fallsession and a spring session of training for all staff – cafeteriaworkers, custodians, everyone that deals with the children – toteach them how to recognize bullying behavior,” she said. “Thatgoes further than seeing a child pick on another child. They’llrecognize if a child is shying away from another child too.”

Barrett said the education program is aimed at taking a chunk outof bullying that perhaps laws and threats of enforcementcan’t.

“You can have laws and consequences, but if you want to changebehavior, I believe it comes through education,” she said. “We’llalso have an emphasis in the classroom for students on how theyinteract with other students.”

It won’t even be just a talk every once in a while, Barrettsaid.

It will be a part of an almost daily regimen. The school districthas invested in a curriculum that integrates it into the classroomon several levels.

“It’s about conflict resolution, how to be a friend, thinking aboutintegrity and honor in your actions,” she said. “We’ve purchasedthose materials and they’re in place in the schools. That’sintegrated into the weekly lesson plan.”

Barrett said the school districts are simply trying to instill theright values in their students, and to be a positive reinforcementfor what parents are teaching them at home.

“Kids have so many outside influences, we would never try to assumethe role of dealing with religion,” she said. “But those thingsthat make you a hard-working, good citizen for the community, wehave to underscore what the parents say and provide that goodinfluence.”

While bullying has always been an issue in schools, Barrett saidBrookhaven is fortunate to be such a tight-knit community.

“Our good fortune is our size here in Brookhaven and Lincoln Countybecause we are a very close-knit community, and our principals knowour children not just in school but outside, and the parents,” shesaid. “All those things come together to provide a safer atmospherethan larger districts can do, because we see the parents. There’s acertain level of familiarity for us – our children are not justnumbers.”