Bullying has been a major issue in schools across the United States, and over the past year Belmont has actively joined the fight against it.
Tonight, the W.L. Chenery Middle School auditorium will host "Bullying and Cyberbullying," a presentation by Dr. Elizabeth Englander, Director of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center at Bridgewater State University.
The event, sponsored by the Foundation for Belmont Education, iwill take place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. and is for parents and students.
The presentation will detail what bullying is and how parents and students can find ways to stop it.
The foundation received a grant that covers the cost of the presentation, and has paid for teacher and staff training.
Englander will also hold a workshop for teachers and staff this week on what they can do to help stop bullying in the schools and how to handle instances.
Belmont put in place the Bullying Prevention Implementation Plan last December, which was mandated by the state. The plan outlines Belmont’s policy and procedure to handling cases of bullying.
The plan, found online, identifies the various forms of bullying, describes how one can tell that they are being bullied, and how a parent or student should handle the situation.
“The plan is part of a whole continuum of curricula that is happening throughout the system, relating to guidance,” said Laurie Graham, chairwoman of the Belmont School Committee.
Graham said the town has relied on Amanda Rei, K-12 Guidance Specialist for Belmont Schools, to create a guidance curriculum that covers bullying, harassment, and other social competency issues.
Two years ago, Belmont sent out a student risk behavior survey to the students, which showed that there was bullying and cyberbullying in the schools.
Rei issued another survey at the beginning of the school year “to parents, students and teachers about bullying, teasing, and aggression,” said Graham.
During the school year, about a dozen staff members went to an intensive training program about bullying. “The whole concept of this is to train the trainers, so 12 or 13 people are our core group of bringing this back throughout our whole school system,” said Graham. “All teachers and staff are trained eventually on how to recognize bullying and harassment, and how to deal with it, and how to report it.”
Rei met with the School Committee on Tuesday to give an update on the Bullying Prevention Implementation Plan. “It may seem on the surface that instances have gone up, but that also may be because people are reporting things more," Graham said. "It is not necessarily because there are more instances of it, but people know where to turn.”
Because the numbers are so subjective, Graham said Belmont has not tracked the number of bullying instances, rather they are more interested in creating a cultural change among students and parents.
“Hopefully parents and students are realizing that there is some help for this,” she said. “If they are feeling that they are victims of bullying and harassment, they have somebody to report this to and that it is required that some steps are taken.”
Derek McLean can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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