2008-09-11 / Other News

City Announces New Plan To Stop Bullying In Schools

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein last week announced a comprehensive new set of initiatives aimed at combating bullying and harassment in New York City public schools.

A new Chancellor's regulation will make the city's efforts to combat bullying and harassment based on ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and other factors among the most rigorous in the country. The new regulation, which builds on the city's "Respect for All" initiative, requires schools to make standards clear to students and staff, track and monitor all bias incidents, investigate complaints promptly, and take follow-up steps to ensure that schools are safe, supportive, and respectful learning environments for all students.

"Bullying and harassment impede students' ability to learn. When students are victims of bullying, they simply cannot focus on learning, and we cannot allow that," said the mayor. "Our students should always feel safe at school, and these initiatives will help ensure that they do. By holding students and administrators accountable, and by giving victims more opportunities to seek help, we can create safer schools with healthier learning environments."

The regulation details a process for reporting and investigating incidents of bias-based harassment, intimidation, and bullying. It mandates that every principal designate a staff member to whom students can report all incidents by E-mail to RespectForAll@schools.nyc.gov , where students who have been subjected to prohibited behavior but do not feel comfortable reporting incidents to their school can seek help.

The regulation also requires each school to create an annual plan to ensure that it has a safe and supportive learning environment and directs schools to train students about the new rules, so they understand what behaviors constitute bias-based harassment and where to go for help if they believe they have been subjected to harassment.

Schools must now report all complaints of harassment, intimidation or bullying within 24 hours. They must also conduct full investigations, including interviews and written statements. In addition, the regulation requires staff members who either witness or learn about incidents to report them —and that schools must contact the families of accused students.

The DOE will also work with schools to take appropriate follow-up steps after incidents. This could include sending students to counseling, helping schools to train staff, or intervening to protect the safety of alleged victims.

The regulation builds on the Respect for All initiative, launched last year, which is a training program for school staff that prepares teachers, guidance counselors, and others to identify and address bullying, harassment, and intimidation.

This year, for the first time, schools will distribute Respect for All brochures to all students and prominently post related posters. The DOE has also created new lessons that schools can use to teach students about bias-related bullying.

Also for the first time, DOE has launched a system that tracks bias-related incidents as part of its safety incident reporting system, under which incidents will be reviewed by principals and central DOE staff. This tracking system will allow reviewers to spot trends in bullying incidents and take appropriate action to address problems.

Respect for All is a training program for staff members in middle and high schools that enables them to serve as resources for students who may have questions about bias-related incidents. The department developed the program in collaboration with community advocacy partners. More than 1,000 supervisors, teachers and counselors have been trained to date, and more are to be trained this year. While the training is primarily for middle and high schools, the DOE has begun a Respect for All outreach program to students in all grades.

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