Williamsburg-James City County schools will observe bullying prevention month throughout January with a series of public awareness efforts.
The Virginia School Boards Association marks January as a month to bring awareness to bullying, which has become the focus of national attention in recent years. “Bullying is a significant problem nationwide,” said David Gaston, WJCC’s senior director for specialized education services, in a press release. “It can cause school absenteeism, mental and physical stress, poor school performance, poor self-esteem and, in some cases, school violence. Statistics show that 160,000 children in the United States miss school each day as a result of being bullied.”
During the month, the school division will focus on different topics. In the first week, schools will talk about how to define bullying. In the second week, schools will learn how to recognize the characteristics of a bully. Then, schools will talk about the characteristics of bullying victims. Finally, schools will discuss the next steps to take to prevent bullying.
Two community programs will focus on building resiliency in students and ways adults can help them address and prevent bullying in school. On Jan. 18, a program geared toward elementary students will be offered from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the auditorium in the Central Office at James Blair. A secondary schools program will be offered from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 19 at Lafayette High School’s auditorium.
WJCC will also adopt the Olweus Anti-Bullying program in its middle schools for the 2012-13 academic year. The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program is “backed by 35 years of research and successful, worldwide implementation,” according to its website. It’s a long-term program with components at four levels: school level, individual level, classroom level and community level. At each level, stakeholders are taught to develop partnership, take responsibility, stop bullying as it occurs and collaborate, in addition to more level-specific components.
WJCC has purchased the Olweus training materials and the implementation process will begin this spring and summer, with certified Olweus trainers working with faculty and staff. In January, every middle school student will complete a short online questionnaire that will serve as an assessment of needs prior to implementation of the Olweus program.
From March 12-16, guest speaker Ronnie Bachmann will share his story of success against intolerance and bullying with WJCC middle school students. Bachman, who was born with deformed legs that were amputated before he started school, went on to achieve his dream of working in radio broadcasting. He now travels the country to talk about rising above adversity. Last year, he spoke to WJCC’s high school and elementary school students.
The division also plans to review and revise its current anti-bullying policy, and will draft a policy for cyberbullying with the assistance of School Board attorney Pat Lacy. The Student Code of Conduct will also be reviewed and edited, with special attention to codes regarding bullying, harassment and inappropriate conduct.
The division plans to post a webpage with guidance on how to handle bullying at the beginning of January.