Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

December 11, 2011

Tazewell County School Board targets bullying to create a safer student climate

TAZEWELL, Va. — The Tazewell County School Board is hoping to take a proactive stance in addressing bullying and harassment in schools by implementing new policies aimed at creating safe environments for students.

During their upcoming meeting on Dec. 12, the Tazewell County School Board will be looking at a new anti-bullying policy for area schools. Tazewell County Schools Superintendent Dr. Brenda Lawson said the school already has bullying and harassment regulations in the student code of conduct, but she and school officials wanted to make policies clear for all schools and staff in the county.

“When I was looking at our policy and some of the other administrative staff members were looking at our policy, we felt we needed a more in-depth policy, especially when it came to the consequences of this behavior,” Lawson said. “We want to be clear and consistent. We don’t want bullying to be addressed one way in one situation and then another way at another school. It is going to be consistent across our school system. This regulation will make it clear that our schools prohibit any incidents of bullying or harassment. We will use all of our resources to help our children learn in a safe environment.”

Lawson said the new policy will not only define what actions constitute bullying or harassment but also outlines punishments for such behaviors. According to Lawson, the policy also includes language to address cyberbullying between students.

“The policy is really in depth in regards to spelling what bullying is, the consequences of bullying or harassing behaviors, and what actions should be taken by parents, staff and students,” she said. “I think our intent is that we expect our students to conduct themselves in a manner that is appropriate to their level of development and maturity. We expect them to demonstrate a proper regard for the rights of other students, school staff, volunteers and anyone in our buildings. The intent of our regulation is to spell out a definition of bullying as well as the consequences the administration can use to address infractions of this regulation.”

With the consequences of bullying in national headlines, Lawson said school officials in Tazewell County want to be proactive and ensure students have a healthy, safe learning environment.

“We are serious about this,” Lawson said. “This is very much a hot topic nationally and in across the Commonwealth. You read more and more about bullying cases in the news. It is our board’s intent and my responsibility as superintendent to try to come up with policies and regulations that protect our students. Our job is to make things better for our students, and we think this one area that will make things better for our students. We have programs in place, such as conflict resolution, that we try to instill in our students. We want to show them the importance of being respectful to others and trying to get along. Any behavior that is not conducive to the instructional environment or that makes another student feel intimidated in anyway is not going to be tolerated. We are going to use all the resources we have to encourage our students to want to come to school as much as possible. We want to let them know they are safe and do belong in our schools.”

Additionally, the school board will be looking at a policy to address the use of surveillance cameras in schools.

“We use video surveillance in our middle and high school buildings,” Lawson said. “This is a regulation that is new that addresses the use of surveillance videos and the purpose of that equipment. We use this equipment to protect our students and maintain a safe learning environment for our students. We are pretty much spelling out this policy. There is also a section in there as to how that surveillance material is used and how it is to be maintained. It is all about providing a safe environment for our students and staff.”

Lawson said surveillance cameras have not only been useful in resolving disciplinary issues at schools but have also helped the school identify persons who have damaged or stolen school property.

“It has also assisted us in protecting the school board’s assets as well as the discipline of students and violations of the code of conduct,” Lawson said. “Just the fact that we have cameras often deters people from certain actions. People know we use the cameras when we approach the school. Our entrances are locked and secured, so we can ask who is coming in and why they are wanting to enter the school building. We have had people break in to our buildings, and we do have that on tape. Our initial intent in installing the equipment was to ensure the safety and well-being of students. Following the break-ins, we saw we had the whole incident on video and it helped us apprehend the perpetrators.”

The Tazewell County School Board will meet on Monday, Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. at the Tazewell County Career and Technical Center’s student center to discuss new policies and other school issues.

— Contact Kate Coil at kcoil@bdtonline.com

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