Bullying isn't just frowned upon in the Westport Public Schools, it's not acceptable period. That's why the district has a detailed policy against bullying, Superintendent Elliott Landon said.
The policy, which has been in place since 2002 and updated several times, most recently in 2008, defines bullying as "any overt acts by a student or group of students directed against another student with the intent to harass, ridicule, humiliate or intimidate the other student" either at school, a school-sponsored event, on the bus or off school grounds, including cyber-bullying. Students found violating the policy are disciplined, Landon said.
"Where we have had to discipline students, consequences range from in-school suspensions, out-of-school suspensions, and I have personally expelled students for bullying," he said. "We also work closely with the Westport Police Department and the Youth Bureau, especially with cyber-bullying. We leave no stone unturned."
The issue has gained a lot of local attention recently since a Bedford Middle School student posted a video on YouTube begging for help after being bullied at school.
Landon said discipline is only one part of the solution. More importantly, he said, the district has a number of programs in place to curb bullying. One such program is the Social Skills curriculum in which students and teachers meet every day to discuss fair-mindedness, tolerance and cooperation. This curriculum is offered from kindergarten through fifth grade.
Similarly, all middle school students are engaged in a Developmental Guidance program in which they learn more about being respectful toward others. The district is also involved with the Anti-Defamation League. Every year, ADL professionals train Westport teachers and students to be facilitators and intervene when they see bullying.
Beyond special programs, the elementary schools have psychologists on staff, and there are counselors and psychologists at each middle school. At Staples, there are counselors, psychologists and social workers on staff to assist students faced with bullying.
"We have been very proactive in addressing the issue of bullying," Landon said. "Yet, despite it all, kids are still bullied. That's why for us, it's important to always re-examine what we do to see if we can do things better and be proactive in that regard because we're here for the kids. Doing what's right for the kids is our sole motivation."
How do you help your child defend themselves against bullies? Leave a comment below.
*Check back with The Daily Westport this afternoon to read what Dr. S. David Bernstein, a forensic psychologist, told a roomful of concerned parents about bullying on Tuesday night.
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