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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Five years ago, members of the Friends of Bryan Park were facing the apparently inevitable development of the Shirley subdivision in Henrico, adjacent to the forested section of the park near the Nature Center and Environmental Education Area.

As part of the Shirley subdivision, the land had been divided into 14 lots in 1924, but had remained mostly undisturbed through the decades. In 2012, however, developers proposed building 40 modular houses on roughly 6.5 acres, clear-cutting the forest there and creating a highly dense neighborhood tucked into a dead end. > Read more.

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However, during the last gubernatorial race in 2014, the voter turnout was less than 42 percent, compared with 72 percent during last year’s presidential election. > Read more.

RISC to address reading, childhood trauma, job training at assembly

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RIR’s Christmas tree lighting rescheduled for Dec. 12


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Entertainment Dec. 12 will be provided by the Laburnum Elementary School choir and the Henrico High School Mighty Marching Warriors band. Tree decorations crafted by students from Laburnum Elementary School and L. Douglas Wilder Middle School will be on display. Hot chocolate and cookies will be supplied by the Henrico High School football boosters. > Read more.
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Weekend Top 10


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The Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation will host the Virginia Ride for Kids at 11 a.m. The family-friendly loop ride begins at Richmond International Raceway and travels through Henrico County. Any make or model of street legal motorcycle is welcome. There will be activities for non-riders as well, including a bike show, food, vendors, speakers and activities for the whole family. The Virginia Ride for Kids is one of 30 PBTF-hosted motorcycle rides taking place this year. Now in its 15th year, the Virginia Ride for Kids has raised more than $1.1 million to help the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation fund childhood brain tumor research and life-changing family support programs. Admission is free but a minimum donation of $40 per motorcycle is encouraged. For details, visit http://www.rideforkids.org. Full text

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