Thursday, July 24, 2014

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New York schools required to address bullying

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: New York schools required to address bullying
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New York schools are now required to have a plan to address bullying. It's actually a law, called the Dignity for All Students Act. From training to curriculum, combating bullying has become a regular part of education. Our Iris St. Meran caught up with one district to see how things are going now that the new law is on the books.

NEW YORK STATE -- If you visit the West Genesee School District's website, you'll notice a bully button.

West Genesee Schools Superintendent Dr. Christopher Brown said, "Anybody that makes an entry on that, that would come directly to me. I like to see everything that comes through. What I'll do, I'll sift through them and send those to the correct building principal. The building principal follows up, works through the situation, then reports back to me."

All districts in New York under the new Dignity for All Students Act have to have a plan to respond to bullying. There are a number of requirements, including annual staff training, instruction for students to raise awareness, as well as a Dignity Act Coordinator in each school building. Penny Williams, of OCM BOCES does trainings.

Williams said, "In the elementary, when you use things like responsive classroom. You're going to look at students and greet them this morning. You're going to teach them about empathy, how to feel for one another, how to listen to one another."

Just a few months into the school year, Dr. Brown says it's working.

"A lot of the things being reported to us are preemptive. Students coming to us and saying 'hey I think something might happen at this lunch table or in this hallway,” Brown added. “We've been able to investigate those situations and take care of them for the most part."

Bullying does take place outside of school and on social media sites like Facebook. There isn't anything just yet to address cyber bullying, but it's in the works for next year.

Williams said, "Currently, if a student is cyber bullied or harassed online, outside of school, but effects them in school, we can speak to that in school."

They want the halls to be a safe environment for everyone and want this effort to stretch outside of the building with parents and neighbors being proactive as well.

OCM BOCES offers some warning signs a child is being bullied. You should look for unexplained cuts, bruises and scratches, experiences loss of appetite, seems afraid of going to school and has trouble sleeping or frequent bad dreams.

To learn more, visit www.stopbullying.gov.

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