The legislation defines the term “bullying” and requires school boards to prohibit students and school employees from engaging in any actions that fall under the definition. The bill also requires local school boards to implement policies and procedures for reporting, investigating and addressing acts of bullying.
The part of the bill defining bullying reads:
“Bullying” means any aggressive and unwanted behavior that is intended to harm or humiliate the victim; involves a real or perceived power imbalance between the aggressor or aggressors and victim; and is repeated over time or causes severe emotional trauma. “Bullying” includes behavior motivated by a real or perceived differentiating characteristic of the victim and cyber bullying. “Bullying” does not include ordinary teasing, horseplay, argument, or peer conflict.
The legislation requires each of the school boards around the state to add a portion to its code of student conduct addressing bullying by July 1, 2014. This would prohibit bullying in classrooms, on a school bus, on school property and at school-sponsored activities.
Each code of conduct must also be updated with provisions to protect students and school employees who come forward to report instances of bullying, and must allow the reporting individuals to remain anonymous. School administrators or their designees would be required to promptly investigate every credible report of bullying.
“Sen. Favola patroned this bill because she believes it is an important message to put language in the law to protect our children and create safe learning environments,” said Legislative Assistant Arlene Spinelli. “Studies demonstrate that when bullying takes place in the school environment, academic performance is impacted and suffers. This issue is a priority of the Virginia Education Association.”
The bill is currently awaiting a vote in the state Senate Education and Health Committee.
County Offering Grants for Runoff Projects — Arlington County is seeking local residents, businesses and homeowners associations interested in reducing stormwater runoff and pollution from their property. Using $80,000 received from the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund, the county will offer cost-sharing grants to those who want to embark on runoff-reducing projects, like green roofs, rain gardens, conservation landscaping, infiltration trenches, cisterns, and pervious walkways and driveways. [Washington Post]
Arlington Teen Named ‘National Student Poet’ — Washington-Lee senior Luisa Banchoff, 17, has been named one of five 2012 National Student Poets, the “country’s highest honor for youth poets presenting original work.” [Patch, Art & Writing Awards]
Library Recommends Books for Bullying — If your child is getting bullied, Arlington Public Library has some recommendations for books that can help him or her cope. [Arlington Public Library]
Photo courtesy Peter Golkin
How can students and teachers help reduce the bullying of LGBT youth in our schools? That’s the subject of a public forum to be held in Arlington next weekend.
The Northern Virginia chapter of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) is inviting all interested parents, teachers, administrators, community leaders, residents and youth to discuss “what can be done to make schools safer for all students.” The forum is being held from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 10, at the Unitarian Church of Arlington (4444 Arlington Blvd).
David Aponte, chair of the GLSEN chapter that’s organizing the forum, says that even in Arlington, bullying of LGBT students is a problem.
“We hear about it all the time,” Aponte said. “Luckily, here we haven’t had any cases… of school violence or anything like that, but we do definitely know there’s verbal bullying of LGBT students on a regular basis.”
Aponte says his organization tries to “give students the leadership abilities they need and the tools and resources they need so they can go back to their schools and make them safer.” The forum will also seek to engage teachers and figure out things they can do “to work with students to make things better.”
GLSEN is asking interested attendees to pre-register for the event.
Bullet Hit White House — Two bullets have been discovered on the White House grounds after Friday night’s shooting incident. Oscar Ramiro Ortega is wanted in connection with the shooting. The 21-year-old was stopped by Arlington County Police on the morning of the shooting for suspicious behavior, but ultimately he was photographed and released. Ortega might have been squatting in a vacant home in North Arlington. [NBC Washington]
County Board to Vote on Massage Regulation — The Arlington County Board is expected to vote over the weekend on whether to effectively deregulate the massage industry in Arlington. The industry was first regulated in the mid-20th century due to the use of massage parlors as a front for prostitution.
Police to Teach Teachers About Bullying — An Arlington County Police Department School Resource Officer will be educating teachers and staff at Yorktown High School about bullying today. Cpl. Jim Tuomey has developed a presentation on bullying and cyber-bullying that he hopes to eventually give at other schools around the county. [Arlington County Police]
Guas’ Favorite Cheap Eats — For its November issue, Southern Living magazine asked Bayou Bakery (1515 N. Courthouse Road) owner and chef David Guas what some of his favorite “cheap eats” are in and around Arlington. Guas picked Lebanese Taverna (4400 Old Dominion Drive), Uncle Julios’s (4301 N. Fairfax Drive), Lost Dog Cafe (5876 N. Washington Blvd), and Fortune Chinese Seafood Restaurant (6249 Seven Corners Center, Falls Church). [Southern Living]
Flickr pool photo by Mennyj
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) just released a new video for the It Gets Better Project, an initiative that seeks to give hope to bullied lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.
In the video, Moran talks about his own experience with bullying.
“I’ve known an awful lot of bullies through my life,” he said. “It’s interesting that they all grew up to be insecure jerks who only seem to feel good about themselves when they were making other people feel bad about themselves.”
The congressman also talked about being shy as a kid. He recounted that he fainted several times during his first two public speeches.
“I told myself things have got to get better because they can’t get any worse, and they did, eventually,” he said.
Moran joins a long list of celebrities, athletes, public officials and everyday people who have recorded videos for the It Gets Better Project.
Students are reporting more incidents of bullying at Arlington’s public schools, according to the 2010 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which is expected to be officially released later this month.
According to the survey, which was summarized at a school board meeting last week, 22 percent of students surveyed said they have been a victim of bullying, compared to 19 percent in 2007 and 22 percent in 2004.
Twenty-seven percent of 6th graders say they’ve been bullied, compared to 22 percent in 2007 and 33 percent in 2004. Twelve percent of 6th graders said they were the victim of cyberbullying in the past year.
Bullying is most prevalent in 8th grade, with 28 percent of students saying they’ve been bullied.
Bullying becomes less common past middle school, the survey found. Twenty-one percent of 10th graders and 14 percent of 12th graders reported being bullied.
Among 6th graders, 27 percent reported having possessions stolen or damaged at school, 7 percent reported missing school because it “felt unsafe,” and 35 percent reported being involved in a fight. The results were all above 2007 levels, but below 2004 levels.
The Arlington Partnership for Children, Youth and Families, which conducts the survey, concluded that more intervention is necessary to fight bullying, especially in 6th and 8th grade.
Among all grade levels surveyed, more students than ever said they believed that adults would help with their bullying problem. Seventy-six percent of 6th graders, 67 percent of 8th graders, 65 percent of 10th graders and 72 percent of 12th graders agreed with the statement “if I tell an adult about bullying, they will try to help.”
Last week two state legislators who represent parts of Arlington introduced bills to make bullying a crime in Virginia and to better equip public schools to protect bullying victims.
The Arlington Partnership for Children, Youth and Families declined a request from ARLnow.com to release the full results of the survey before the group briefs the Arlington County Board on Jan. 26.
Flickr pool photo (top) by Chris Rief
“Every child deserves to feel safe at school,” said Del. David Englin, a bill sponsor who represents parts of Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax County. “A child who doesn’t feel safe can’t learn well and live up to his or her potential.”
Another bill sponsor, Del. Adam Ebbin, cited the suicide of a bullied York County, Va. teenager as evidence of why the legislation is necessary. According to Ebbin, who also represents parts of Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax, the York County sheriff’s office refused to investigate the teen’s bullies because there’s no law on the books outlawing bullying.
“This is outrageous, it must be changed,” Ebbin said. “No student in Virginia should be afraid to attend school.”
Del. Ebbin’s bill, HB 1576, deals with criminal and civil penalties for bullying. According to a press release, it would:
- Make bullying a Class 1 misdemeanor
- Give victims the right to sue bullies who are sanctioned or found guilty
- Provide for expulsions
- Require that bullying causing injury be reported to the Commonwealth’s Attorney
Del. Englin’s bill, HB 1575, is called the Anti-Bullying Responsibility Act. According to a press release, it would:
- Add more specificity regarding bullying, harassment, and intimidation to the codes of student conduct required of local school divisions
- Require schools to have appropriate procedures in place to separate victims from bullies
- Change teacher training in bullying intervention from an optional to a required part of in-service training
- Require that incidents of bullying, harassment, and intimidation be reported to division superintendents
- Hold school administrators responsible for implementing anti-bullying procedures outlined in local policies