The new Student Code of Conduct, which replaced an existing policy passed in 1991, encourages public school officials to respond immediately and consistently to incidents of bullying, harassment, abuse, and violence in schools. The policy clearly defines behaviors that are unacceptable as well as appropriate responses to violations of these codes.
“The State Board wanted to enact a policy that would ensure an orderly and safe school environment and would be conducive to learning and personal development,” said State Superintendent Dr. David Stewart. “Because of the pervasive and long-term effects of bullying, the Board wanted to issue a clear and concise message to the entire education community that bullying and intimidation will not be tolerated.”
In the final version of the policy, the State Board detailed a list of positive behaviors that students should demonstrate. They included demonstrating honesty and trustworthiness; treating others with respect; dealing peacefully with anger; using self-control and self-discipline; and demonstrating good citizenship by obeying laws and rules.
“This new Student Code of Conduct complements the many ongoing safe schools initiatives across the state including Character Education, Responsible Students, Conflict Resolution, and the Governor’s Safe School Helpline,” noted Stewart.
The Helpline is a 24-hour, toll-free number that allows individuals to report any information that may have a negative impact on students, school staff or school property. That might include violence, weapons, threats, harassment or drug or alcohol abuse.
Operated by the West Virginia Fire Marshal’s Office, the Helpline ensures that reports remain confidential and receive immediate response. The Helpline number is 1-866-SAFEWVA (1-866-723-3982).
“The Helpline, initiated by Governor Wise, has given parents, teachers, students and others a strong vehicle to confidentially report concerns about school safety, and be assured that their concerns will be investigated,” Stewart commented. “Plus, the Helpline is answered by an actual person, rather than a recording, giving callers an even greater assurance that their reports are heeded,” added Stewart.
During the 1990s, the Department of Education instituted a Responsible Students Program to teach responsible behavior by providing a series of standards, expectations and rewards for positive behavior and class preparedness. The program is still active in hundreds of schools across the state and has resulted in improvement in school performance, increase in daily attendance and improvement in conflict resolution. Another Department of Education program, Conflict Resolution, has taught students to review and make decisions in a responsible manner.
Last year, the Department of Education worked with the Governor’s Office to launch a character education initiative aimed at incorporating six general character traits into the existing school curriculum: responsibility, caring, citizenship, justice, fairness and honesty. The Office of Student Services and Assessment worked with all public schools to develop and integrate components of character development into their existing curriculum by September 1, 2001.
“All these programs and policies are geared toward creating a safe school environment,” noted Stewart. “The State Board believes that by taking a proactive approach and collaborating with other agencies, instances of bullying, harassment, and violence can be eliminated in our schools.”
For more information about Safe Schools Initiatives, contact the Office of Student Services and Assessment, West Virginia Department of Education, (304) 558-2546.