State Board Approves School Bullying Policy - Southern Maryland Headline News

State Board Approves School Bullying Policy

BALTIMORE (Feb. 25, 2009) - The Maryland State Board of Education on Tuesday approved a model policy targeting the growing problems associated with bullying. Maryland's Model Anti-Bullying, Harassment, and Intimidation Policy sets a statewide definition of bullying behavior, and requires school systems to submit copies of their anti-bullying policies to the State Superintendent for review.

The new policy prohibits bullying, harassment, or intimidation of any person on school property or at school-sponsored functions, or by the use of electronic technology at a public school. Reprisals against individuals reporting bullying also are prohibited.

"Bullying has existed for a long time, but that does not make it right or something we as educators should ignore," said State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick. "Today's bullies come in many forms, including those who use electronic means. The brighter the spotlight on this unacceptable behavior, the better chance we have to eliminate it from the school yard and the Internet."

The policy defines bullying, harassment, or intimidation as any intentional conduct, including verbal, physical, or written conduct or an intentional electronic communication that creates a hostile educational environment by substantially interfering with a student's educational benefits, opportunities, or performance, or with a student's physical or psychological well-being and is:

-- Motivated by an actual or perceived personal characteristic including race, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, ancestry, physical attributes, socioeconomic status, familial status, or physical or mental ability or disability; or

-- Threatening or seriously intimidating; and,

-- Occurs on school property, at a school activity or event, or on a school bus; or,

-- Substantially disrupts the orderly operation of a school.

"Electronic communication" refers to a communication transmitted by means of an electronic device, including a telephone, cellular phone, computer, or pager.

The policy also sets forth ideas for preventing improper behavior and methods to intervene in bullying situations, noting the importance of professional development for educators. It also suggests consequences for students who persist in bullying or harassment, providing a range depending upon the severity of the behavior and the age of the student.

The Maryland General Assembly last year directed the State Board, in consultation with local school system representatives, to develop and adopt a model policy prohibiting bullying, harassment, and intimidation. The new law followed the Safe Schools Reporting Act in 2005, which required the development of a form to be used by students, parents, and close family relatives to report bullying incidents. That law also required local systems to record specific information from the forms to MSDE, which includes the data in an annual report to the Governor and the General Assembly.

Local school systems are now required to submit copies of their anti-bullying policies to the State Superintendent by July 1 for her review.

Source: Maryland State Board of Education

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