Westfield, MA -- On Monday, March 8, 2010, Westfield Public Schools (WPS) held an anti-bullying forum at South Middle School. Administration from WPS including superintendent Shirley Alvira, special education director Joe Dupelle, and several principals from the school district highlighted bullet points of their proposed anti-bullying campaign.
WPS administration agreed that the current anti-bullying policy is vague. The proposed campaign will include:
- clear cut definitions of bullying including cyberbullying
- clear procedure for parents and students to follow
- notice to parents/guardians and police
- anonymous reporting
- range of penalties
- penalty for false accusations
- support services for victims and bullies
Members of the Westfield police and and members of the school committee were also present. Captain Mike McCabe has been a part of Westfield's anti-bullying campaign since 2000. He talked about when a bullying case becomes a criminal case. He said in order for bullying to be taken to the criminal level, the bullying needs to have occurred at least three times. Every incident is handled on an individual basis.
At the end of the presentation, parents were allowed to speak. One parent expressed her concern for bullying at the elementary level. She stated that her daughter had been bullied for two-and-a-half years beginning in kindergarten. She stressed her concern that the anti-bullying campaign focused too greatly at the middle and upper education levels.
Special needs was anther topic that was addressed. One parent expressed her concern about support services for victims who have special needs. Her daughter, who has Asperger's Syndrome is bullied on a regular basis because of her disability. The parent worried that the schools were not doing enough to educate students and prevent bullying of children with special needs.
Another parent asked what the protocol was for bullies who had special needs. Dr. Dupelle responded that the bully would still be accountable for his actions, even if he had special needs. However, the school system is still responsible for educating that child and providing the special services he requires. In addition, a meeting would be held to determine if the child's behavior is a result of his disability, and then appropriate action would be taken.
The forum ended with a statement from Mrs. Sullivan, a member of the school committee. She urged parents to speak on behalf of their children because parents are children's greatest advocates.
Massachusetts is one of twelve states without a bullying law. Right now, a bullying law is pending legislation. Requirements include definition and prohibition, reporting and addressing, and a prevention and intervention plan.
For more information about bullying, please visit: Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center, NetSmartz, Stop Bullying Now! US Dept. of Health and Human Services