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March 11, 2010

Board implements new bullying policy

by Warren Zhang, Managing News Editor and Ombudsman
On Mar. 9, the MCPS Board of Education (BOE) finalized a new anti-bullying policy, according to Board member Shirley Brandman. The Superintendentís Office, according to Brandman, will then be responsible for creating regulations from this policy.

Brandman said that the policy, titled "Bullying, Harassment or Intimidation," was created in response to legislation passed by the Maryland General Assembly last year. The policy, Brandman said, was created due to an increased sensitivity on the part of officials to bullying. "Thereís a growing recognition of bullying and its harmful effect on the bullied, bystanders, and students who do the bullying," she said.

The policy, according to Brandman, will now be sent to the Superintendentís Office for implementation. "Once the policy has been finalized, the Superintendentís Office can develop the regulation," she said. "The policy articulates the Boardís commitment to preventing bullying and providing a safe learning environment."

Assistant Principal Edith Verdejo said that Blair is not currently creating any new anti-bullying programs to supplement the current programs in place. "As soon as weíre aware [of an incident], we have mediation sessions," Verdejo said. In addition, Verdejo stated that she has spoken with ninth graders in their U.S. history classes about preventing and reporting bullying.

Verdejo said that Blair handles bullying incidents on a case-by-case basis. The school reports all student or staff reported bullying incidents to the county, according to Verdejo, but these cases are divided into several levels depending on the severity of the incident. "A serious incident is defined as when someone gets hurt and has to go to the hospital," Verdejo said.

However, Verdejo stated that despite the several definitions of serious incidents, all bullying incidents are taken seriously at Blair. "I take all fights seriously," she said.

MCPS signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) regulating how the county will report cases of bullying in 2006. Brandman said that she does not anticipate any changes to the MOU because of the new policy.

The MCPS Office of Shared Accountability released a safety report for all MCPS schools with data on the 2008-2009 school year with results from a survey asking students how safe they felt in their school.
According to the report, 70.7 percent of Blazers stated that they felt safe in school while 31.8 percent of Blazers felt that their belongings were safe in Blair.

Verdejo stated that Blair faces unique conditions that may impact school safety that do not exist in other county schools. "We are the largest school in the county," she said. "I want everyone to feel safe but the reality is that it might not be true."

Verdejo believes that the entire Blair community needs to be involved in preventing bullying for any program to be effective. "Creating a safe environment is the communityís job," she said. "We need help."



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