The West Virginia Board of Education Supports Anti-Bullying Program

February 19, 2003

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The West Virginia Board of Education today accepted the recommendations of a fact-finding taskforce to lift a temporary suspension of the Civil Rights Team Project.  

In October, the Board directed the Department of Education to halt the program initiated by the West Virginia Attorney General's Office since no board member knew of or understood the Project's existence in the schools. A taskforce was also developed at that time.  

The taskforce composed of board members and department personnel conducted interviews with members of Civil Rights Teams in eight schools, met with the Attorney General's Office, and researched best practices for anti-bullying programs across the nation.  

There were concerns that: * controversial lifestyles were being promoted; * team or peer approach to solving bullying problems might produce adverse effects on certain children; and * parents of participants were not informed about the details of the Project and had not given permission for their children to participate in the program.  

It was found that: * 21 middle and high schools have been involved with aspects of the Civil Rights Team Project; * all activities were supervised by the teacher sponsors and approved by the principal; * most activities were instructional in nature and were meant to raise awareness of the need for respect; * all people interviewed remarked that no particular lifestyle was promoted; * only a few of the participating schools used resource materials listed by the Attorney General's Office; * most of the activities engaged in by the schools adapting some aspect of the Civil Rights Team Project have helped build safe environments for students; and * forms of the Project that worked best in schools gave high priority to character education and multicultural activities that engage the entire student body.  

"The taskforce found so many things that were good. Many schools used parts of the Project and we want that to continue," said Board Member Barbara Fish. "It is important that the public knows the Board supports everyone's civil rights and programs that promote those rights."  

After a thoughtful analysis of the Civil Rights Team Project the taskforce also recommended that:  

* the temporary suspension of materials suggested for use by the Civil Rights Team Project be made permanent unless materials are approved for use by the county superintendent of schools or his/her designee.  

* local school districts provide parents/guardians of a student involved in leadership positions in character education and anti-bullying programs:  

* the opportunity to review resource materials used in such programs; and  

* the option of approving or denying their child's participation in such a program.  

* the West Virginia Board of Education encourages each county school system to review its current policies/procedures that address how to access schools for introducing speakers, programs, or materials into the public schools.  

"The Civil Rights Team Project generated some very serious concerns about how initiatives enter our schools without the Board's knowledge and what these initiatives endorse," said Board President Howard Persinger. "Thanks to the investigation we now know that aspects of this Project go hand in hand with our Student Code of Conduct."  

The West Virginia Board of Education currently supports Policy 4373: Student Code of Conduct. This policy ensures that every student in every public school in West Virginia is protected from bullying, intimidation and harassment. It demands that districts provide an orderly and safe environment that is conducive to learning and that schools respond immediately and consistently to incidents of harassment, intimidation, bullying, substance abuse and/or violence.  

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