New law requires anti-bullying training
Thousands of students in schools across the country are subjected to bullying by their peers on a daily basis. Now Virginia is doing something about the problem.
During its 2012 session, the General Assembly passed legislation requiring teachers and other school personnel to receive training on anti-bullying tactics. Gov. Bob McDonnell has signed the legislation into law; it will take effect in July.
Lawmakers approved two identical measures – Senate Bill 271 and House Bill 504. They will require the Virginia Center for School Safety to provide employees in Virginia schools with training on how to stop bullying. State officials say such training has become necessary as bullying has become more common.
“Recent school safety audits conducted by the Virginia Center for School Safety show that it is a top concern of students in elementary, middle and high schools,” said Donna Michaelis, manager of campus and school safety at the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, which operates the center.
“Approximately one-quarter of school principals agreed or strongly agreed that bullying is a problem at their school.”
Delegate Rosalyn Dance, D-Petersburg, introduced HB 504 with support from McDonnell. After being shown a draft of the bill by Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Marla Graff Decker, Dance agreed to sponsor the legislation.
“Having read the bill and reviewing the negative impact of bullying around the country – verbal and physical abuse that had led to death from murder or suicide – I knew this was a situation waiting for a voice to speak to the issue here in Virginia,” Dance said.
She said the training will give teachers a better understanding of what bullying is. They will learn how to spot behaviors (by both the victim and the perpetrator) associated with bullying. Moreover, school employees will learn intervention and prevention techniques.
The training also will cover alternative punishments for those who bully, other than expulsion or suspension.
At the General Assembly’s request, the Virginia Department of Education last year conducted a study to determine whether policy changes were needed to combat bullying in schools. This year’s legislation was passed in response to that study.
Michaelis said the anti-bullying training also will include information on the rising problem of cyberbullying. Online bullying – using social media, cellphones and other technology – and has led to suicides in some parts of the country.
The Virginia Center for School Safety currently offers a wide range of courses for teachers to attend regarding bullying prevention, conflict management and other topics. It will combine the new training into existing programs.
“The center offers approximately 50-75 trainings per year as well as two major conferences targeting school and campus safety professionals,” Michaelis said. “It is anticipated that they can incorporate aspects of these practices into existing anti-bullying training.”
While the center will train school personnel on how to deal with bullying, everyone – including parents and students – must be involved in addressing the problem, officials say.
“It is the responsibility of school divisions to provide training to teachers and all staff on preventing bullying and establishing a school climate of safety and freedom from bullying,” said Cynthia Cave, director of student services at the Virginia Department of Education.
“We provide technical assistance and on-site professional development activities to individual schools, school divisions and parents regarding specific issues concerning bullying.”
The new law underscores the importance of preventing bullying and bullying-related suicides among young people.
“Everyone has a right to be treated with dignity and respect and should not have to live in fear of someone harming them just because of the way they look, act or view the world we live in,” Dance said.
On the web
You can find the Virginia Department of Education’s report about anti-bullying policies in the state’s public schools at http://tinyurl.com/bullying-study
The new law mandating anti-bullying training for school personnel is at http://tinyurl.com/bullying-law
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Citizen Staff Reports 12/15/2015
The Sixth Annual RVA Environmental Film Festival (RVA EFF) will be held Feb. 1-7, 2016 at various locations, including in Henrico County.
A partnership of The Enrichmond Foundation, Capital Region Land Conservancy, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and Falls of the James Group - Sierra Club, the festival will feature a number of insightful films designed to raise awareness of environmental issues relative to all residents of the planet and Richmond citizens in particular.
A detailed schedule will be released at a time closer to the festival, but the popular children's portion has been set for Saturday, Feb. 6, at the Byrd Theatre in Carytown. > Read more.
Start celebrating Valentine’s Day a little early with Susan Greenbaum at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen. She will present “An Evening of Love Songs.” Other fun events this weekend include Henrico Rec & Parks’ 30th annual One Act Showcase; “The Lego Movie” playing at the Henrico Theatre (tickets are only $!); and Robin and Linda Williams who will be performing at the Shady Grove Coffeehouse. And homeowners will really appreciate the free Home Improvement Seminar taking place at Harvie ES. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
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