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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


Community

Varina Ruritans honor students

The Varina Ruritan Club hosted the winners of its 2014 Environmental Essay contest at its monthly meeting March 11 in Varina.

The contest, in its eighth year, was for the first time open to students in grades 3-5 at Varina Elementary School. (It previously was open to Sandston Elementary School students.)

The meeting included the winners, parents of the winners, Varina Elementary principal Mark Tyler and several teachers who were in charge of the contest at the school. > Read more.

Baseball game to benefit Glen Allen Buddy Ball


For the fifth consecutive year, St. Christopher’s and Benedictine will play a varsity baseball game at Glen Allen's RF&P Park as part of a fundraising effort for the River City Buddy Ball program.

The game will take place Saturday, April 12, at 7 p.m., and the teams hope to raise $3,000 through donations, raffles and other efforts. Admission to the game is free, but fans who attend are asked to donate funds for the Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association's Buddy Ball program, which enables disabled children and teens to play baseball. > Read more.

Highland Springs field to be dedicated in honor of longtime coach Spears

The Henrico Division of Recreation and Parks will dedicate the Highland Springs Little League Majors Field in memory and honor of Rev. Robert “Bob” L. Spears, Jr., on April 12 with a ceremony at the field at 8 a.m.

Spears served the league as a coach and volunteer for 30 years and was praised as a pioneer for equality. His “Finish strong” motto embodied ethical perseverance on the field and in life. > Read more.

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Entertainment

A fun, fuzzy ride

‘Muppets Most Wanted’ worthy of its franchise

Do Muppets sleep? It’s hard to say.

They don’t really eat (or breathe, as far as anyone can tell). And only occasionally do they have visible, functioning legs.

As far as anyone knows, sleeping might be off the table. And that makes it very hard to accuse the Muppets of sleepwalking through their latest feature, Muppets Most Wanted – even if that’s exactly what’s going on.

Jim Henson’s beloved creations were back in a big way after 2011’s The Muppets, with fame and fortune and even an Oscar, a first for the group (“Rainbow Connection” was nominated, yet somehow failed to collect at the ’79 ceremony). > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


There’s no excuse for kids and families to not get out of the house this weekend! The Armour House and Gardens has an “Egg-celent Egg-venture” planned and Reynolds Community College will host the Reynolds Family Palooza. If you’re looking to give back to your community, Dorey Park will host Walk Like MADD and coordinators2inc will present the annual Kids Walk for Kids. And a special event for children with special needs will be on Sunday – the Caring Bunny will be at Virginia Center Commons. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

A new meaning for fried chicken

Is it heresy to say – in this bastion-of-tradition capital of the Old South – that it's time for Southern fried chicken to take a step back and make way for a new fried chicken king?

Count me among the new believers bowing to Bonchon Chicken's delectable double-fried bliss. Hand-brushed with signature garlic soy or hot sauce, flash-fried once and then again, the decadent drums and wings take "crisp" to a new level. If you're eating with a crowd and everyone bites in at once, be warned: you might need ear plugs to handle the din. > Read more.

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