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Easton Schools Take Steps to Undercut Bullying

EASTON, Conn. – When Joel Barlow High School students saw a negative Tweet about about certain students and teachers, they reacted with a positive Tweet of their own. School officials say it was an effective response to an act of bullying that solved the problem quickly.

“It was a nice reaction by the students, because they recognized it as something hurtful and devised a solution,” says Gina Pin, a Barlow assistant principal who also serves as the climate coordinator for the Easton-Redding Region 9 School District.

Online bullying is the most frequent form at the high school. If parents suspect their child is being harassed online, they can send a writen notice to the school. School climate specialists investigate the incidents and communicate with the parties involved.

Pin says school officials also tell parents to notify the police. “We encourage parents to go forward because it might not just be a violation of school policy, it might be a violation of the law.”

School climate officials investigate every act of bullying. “They interview the students involved and then develop a support plan that is reported to the State Department of Education," Pin says. "Students get a written plan that is monitored by the climate specialist.”

The National School Climate Council reports that every day 160,000 students stay home from school for fear of being bullied and that between 5 and 30 percent of students engage in bullying.

Pin notes that the Easton-Redding School Region 9 School District responds to bullying by trying to make every student feel connected. The school district has begun writing student success plans for every student in grades 6-12. “We track to make sure every student is connected in some way to an adult,” she says. She says all staff, from bus drivers to cafeteria workers, are trained to make sure students are connected. “If not, we take action."

Ann Dolan, a Barlow senior who participates in athletics and music programs, says, “I’m definitely connected. I’m close to my music teachers and coaches and girls on my teams. If you want to be involved, there’s something for everybody.”

When asked whether the district’s policies to combat bullying are working, Pin says, “We look at surveys and we know it’s working when students say they’re feeling safer. We found that bullying behavior peaks in middle school and goes down in the ninth grade, but more students report seeing mean behavior at the high school level."

But she adds, "We know we can work with them because they’re more sensitive to it.”

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