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Recent bullying headlines spark questions about Maryland school policies

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In light of recent tragedies around the country, parents everywhere are wondering what anti-bullying policies their state has in place to protect their children, if any at all.

Barstow Elementary in Barstow, Md. where Kellam is a 2nd grade teacher (Photo by: Brittani Bowling/Towson University)

Local parents, however, can rest assured. Maryland is one of 41 states in the country with anti-bullying policies in place by both the government and the Maryland State Department of Education.

Kathy Kellam, 2nd grade teacher at Barstow Elementary in Barstow, Md. says that at her school, the counselors and teachers are actively engaged in bullying prevention programs and that at an early age students are involved in a “Positive Behavior Incentive Program” where they “reward students when their behavior is being courteous and cooperative and polite,” Kellam said.

In the last few years, bullying has been a hot topic. A recent incident in Massachusetts and a 2006 suicide in Missouri have garnered headlines and sparked heated debate. Both girls, 15-years-old and 13-years-old, hanged themselves after bullying and cyber-bullying.

This past January, a 15-year-old Massachusetts girl committed suicide after months of bullying and harassment from several classmates at her South Hadley High School. Phoebe Prince, a new student from Ireland, was subject to name-calling and was threatened physically by nine classmates after briefly dating a popular senior football player.

She eventually committed suicide and all nine students will face charges in connection with her death; however, many teachers and school faculty will not, despite reports that they were aware of the bullying and that Prince’s mother had contacted the school with concern for her daughters welfare.

Kayla Deyarmin, 18, a Maryland high school senior, has been bullied on and off since she was younger, but was most recently harassed this past fall by two female classmates.

“I was going through a lot of family stuff and they were kind of just the last straw on top of everything else I had going on,” Deyarmin said.

As the state requires, her high school does have anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies in place. After seeking help from her guidance counselor, she was able to put a stop to the harassment, despite the bullies’ persistence.

“I was like, I can’t handle this anymore…I want to drop my yearbook class so I don’t have to be with them anymore,” Deyarmin said. “But my guidance counselor wouldn’t let me and she instead sent me to the Safety Advocate who intervened and told the girls that they had to stop or the police would be involved if they didn’t,” she said.

Brandon Douglas, now 22, was also bullied up until his sophomore year in high school because he was slightly overweight.

“I never confronted them but I would always dwell on it,” Douglas said. “If I didn’t have good friends and family who believed in me, it probably would have had really hurt me in the long run,” he said.

According to the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center, almost 30 percent of youth in the United States are estimated to be involved in bullying as either a bully, a target of bullying, or both. In Maryland, fewer than 3 percent of expulsions or suspensions during the 2007-2008 school year were due to bullying or harassment.

In 2005, the Maryland Legislature passed the Safe Schools Reporting Act, later revised in 2008, which required the Maryland State Board of Education to develop a policy prohibiting bullying, harassment, and intimidation in schools and a method to report such incidents. It also defined “electronic communication” because of the rising popularity of students using the internet to target classmates.

Bullypolice.org rated this law A++, one of only four states in the country with a perfect grade. Maryland joins Delaware, Kentucky, and Florida.

In 2009, the Maryland State Department of Education successfully passed Maryland’s Model Policy to Address Bullying, Harassment, or Intimidations. This document outlines the definition of bullying, harassment, or intimidation, provides a guide for prevention, intervention, consequences, and remedial actions, and a process for reporting incidents, procedures for investigation and types of support available to students.

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, bullies identified by age 8 are six times more likely to have a criminal conviction by age 24.

To learn more about what you can do to stop bullying, visit the Bullying Prevention Resource Guide.

Written by brittanibowling

April 19, 2010 at 12:13 pm

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