CMS ahead of state on bullying-prevention legislation
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education was nearly two years ahead of the state when it passed a groundbreaking bullying-prevention policy in 2008. The North Carolina General Assembly ratified the School Violence Prevention Act this week. It defines bullying and harassing behavior and directs all school districts to adopt a policy before Dec. 31, prohibiting bullying or harassing behavior. The legislation also requires school districts to create procedures to report and investigate incidents of bullying, as well as establish training programs. North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue is expected to sign the bill next week.

CMS was one of the first school districts in the state to pass a comprehensive bullying-prevention policy. The CMS Board of Education passed Policy JICK on March 11, 2008. The policy lists specific groups of students who are protected from bullying, as well as outlawing any kind of bullying or harassment. It also established district-wide training programs to enforce the policy and foster an environment of understanding and respect for all individuals.

“The policy is an important part of our district’s efforts to ensure all students are learning in a safe and pleasant environment,” said CMS Superintendent Dr. Peter C. Gorman.

CMS is one of the only school systems in the country to introduce its bullying-prevention plan, called Safety and Respect for All, across the entire district at once. Area superintendents, executive directors, principals and representatives from each school attended training sessions on bullying awareness, intervention strategies and reporting procedures, cyberbullying, legal implications of failing to address bullying, and available parent-information resources. Each school established a bullying-prevention team that developed an action plan designed to meet the needs, interests and readiness levels of their school. District-level staff provided additional resources, examples of curriculum and support to help teams create their plans. Action plans were included in each school’s School Improvement Plan. In addition, staff trained 35 cafeteria and 14 transportation managers in bullying awareness. The managers shared their training with staff.

“This was a district-wide effort,” said CMS Diversity Specialist Jose Hernandez-Paris. “Elementary schools tied Safety and Respect for All activities into classroom lessons and middle schools included activities in character-development times or core classes. We piloted a new curriculum in high schools that will be expanded next year.”

CMS also surveyed most sixth-grade students at the beginning of the school year to create a baseline measurement of bullying in schools. Staff is analyzing the data and will use it to supplement and make changes to the Safety and Respect for All plan.    

Parents are also a part of CMS’ bullying-prevention plan. Schools offered seminars on dealing with students who are bullied and who are bullying classmates and Parent University provided classes on bullying-prevention.