At the conclusion of its monthly meeting yesterday in Charleston, the State Board voted unanimously to issue a statement to county superintendents asking them to institute an anti-bullying program, promote a positive school environment that fosters learning, and create a safe and fear-free school environment in the classroom, playground and at school-sponsored activities.
The State Board had worked over the past several months drafting an anti-bullying policy that would provide a model for counties to adopt locally. After much discussion and deliberation, the State Board decided to expand the current student and teacher codes of conduct. Neither of the conduct codes had been revised since the passage of new safe schools legislation.
State board members believe bullying can take many forms including a combination of physical, emotional and verbal abuse and the consequences of bullying are far-reaching and cause problem behaviors, avoidance of school attendance, severe emotional and physical problems.
It was agreed by the Board that counties should develop plans to prevent bullying and develop methods to immediately react to bullying when it occurs. The anti-bullying plan needs to be an integral part of a district-wide safety and discipline plan, board members indicated.
The board encourages total community involvement in addressing the bullying issue. School administrators, faculty, support staff, parents, community members and the entire student body should all be included in this process.
Studies have shown that individuals with a history of bullying are likely to exhibit criminal behavior by the time they reach their mid-20s. Individuals who have been bullied are found to have a higher rate of depression and poor self-esteem.
By striving to prevent bullying, schools reduce risks of violence and teach students resiliency skills, board members noted.