Westport school officials underscore prevention, penalties for bullying
Updated 4:43 pm, Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Bullying, which has emerged as an issue of national attention in the last few years, is also taken seriously in Westport, school officials say.
Town schools forbid bullying, according to Board of Education policy. The policy covers bullying that occurs both on and off school grounds, including cyberbullying.
Students, parents and/or guardians may file formal written or informal verbal complaints to report a bullying incident. School officials investigate all reports, and bullying can be sanctioned with a range of measures, including in and out-of-school suspension and expulsion.
Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon encourages students who are victims of bullying to immediately contact a teacher or school official to report an incident.
Police Capt. Sam Arciola said the police department would investigate a bullying incident if it were criminal in nature.
"If there's a complaint that comes forward from the Board of Education or a parent, we would naturally look into the complaint and try to resolve the matter," he said.
Town schools also have a range of programs and services designed to prevent and respond to bullying. At the elementary school level, students take a social skills program that teaches anti-bullying principles. Middle school students participate in a developmental guidance program that has a similar focus. At the high school level, guidance counselors, psychologists, social workers and assistant principals serve as students' main resources for addressing bullying issues.
During the last 10 years, the school district has often partnered with the Anti-Defamation League on anti-bullying initiatives. Landon said the school board is considering introducing another ADL anti-bullying program at the elementary school level.
For parents, the district also offers Internet safety workshops to help them monitor their children's online activity.
The Westport Board of Education's anti-bullying policy can be accessed at http://www2.westport.k12.ct.us/media/policies/prohibition_against_bullying_5131.911_revised_8.25.2008.pdf
Forms for students or parents who wish to report a bullying incident can also be found at that site.