Bullying is a serious problem facing young people. In response to several recent incidents in Beaufort County schools, we are redoubling our efforts to teach students our expectations about respect and responsibility.
Respect means treating others as you would want to be treated. Responsibility means reporting bullying to adults when you witness it. The message is, "If you see something, say something."
Bullying can take place anywhere -- on the bus, on the playground and on cell phones or other electronic devices. Cyber-bullying, the act of harassing a fellow student in text messages or emails, has been identified as a growing problem.
Safety is our first priority. The school district's administrative rules define harassment, intimidation or bullying as "a gesture, an electronic communication or a written, verbal, physical or sexual act" that could have either of the following effects:
Setting high expectations for student behavior is an ongoing effort.
The district has:
Despite adults' best efforts to ensure a safe learning environment, infractions will still occur because students sometimes make poor choices. School and district leaders met recently to review anti-bullying efforts and to outline an aggressive plan. One component of that plan took place recently when we retaught our expectations for respect and responsibility to every student in every school. Students were reminded to report bullying when they witness it. Disciplinary consequences for bullying and hurtful behavior were reviewed.
We also are asking parents and the entire community to assist us in emphasizing to our youth that bullying is unacceptable. Letters and phone calls will be sent to parents via electronic means, asking that they talk with their children about the importance of treating others as they would like to be treated. Parents, like students, will be asked to report bullying whenever and wherever it occurs.
Meetings with faith leaders, School Improvement Council members and civic leaders will emphasize our need for a community response to anti-bullying. Leaders of mentoring programs will be asked to have candid conversations with students about their expectations for respectful behavior. Meetings with student leaders, Gentlemen's Club, Men of Strength Club, Youth Leadership Institute and Fellowship of Christian Athletes members will emphasize their responsibility to lead their peers in opposing bullying.
Our efforts to keep children safe and secure are ongoing. We will continue to ask community members to reinforce the important message of civility and kindness toward others. We will continue to ask our youth to speak up to their peers and stop bullying. And we hope and trust that the entire community will support our children as they navigate the sometimes difficult process of growing up.