Tracing the history of aggressive behavior from Ancient Sparta to modern-day Locust Grove, Alison Walden, school counselor at Locust Grove Middle School, assured those who attended the club’s May 16 meeting that Orange County Schools take bullying very seriously.
“We tell our students and our parents that if anything like that goes on, we want to know about it,” Ms. Walden said. “We feel we have a responsibility to our children to make sure they feel safe at school.”
She defined bullying as “unwanted, repeated aggressive behavior by a person or a group which makes a child feel powerless to defend himself or herself.” She explained that not all conflict is bullying and that children can’t be protected from all conflict, but that bullying is never appropriate.
Bullying is categorized into four categories, she said: physical, verbal, emotional and cyber.
The Orange County school division uses components of a bullying-prevention program called Olweus, named for Dr. Dan Olweus, a professor of psychology at the University of Bergen in Norway.
Among the preventative measures undertaken at Orange County Schools, she said, are student surveys about bullying, assembly programs on bullying, an “I Am Unafraid” bulletin board, video reminders during morning announcements, an anonymous box to report bullying at the school and a “Bullying Stops Here” link on the school’s Web site that permits students and parents to report incidents of bullying.
In addition, she said, faculty and staff at the school are trained regularly on how to handle complaints of bullying and every complaint is treated seriously and investigated.
As a result of the school system’s efforts, Ms. Walden said, the reported instances of bullying has been reduced by as much as 75 percent. In a student survey conducted in September 2013, 54 percent of students answered “no” to the question “Have you ever been the victim of bullying. Less than 1 percent said they had been bullied frequently.