BRAVE or Building Responsibility Acceptance through Voice Empowerment, is an anti-harassment/anti-bullying program that calls for students, parents, educators and the community to work together to eliminate bullying.
“What we want to do is give students a voice and make them part of the process to empower them to create change,” said Greg Hurst, coordinator of student services for the county schools. “This program is designed to include parents, students, faculty, staff and the community because that’s the only way that we’ll be able to reduce it, eliminate it.”
Hurst said the school system is encouraging parents to get involved by signing anti-harassment forms and by looking for signs that their children are being bullied or are bullying others.
The community can get involved in the program by speaking to students about bullying, coming to school open houses and taking part in community discussions about bullying.
At schools, Hurst said the issue is being tackled in several ways.
The first step is training students to report bullying when they see or encounter it. But to do that, they need to know exactly what bullying is.
“There’s a misconception on what bullying is,” Hurst said. “Bullying is a continuous pattern of intentional behavior that takes place on school property, on a bus or at a school function. And the key word is continuous and intentional. If it happens one time, it could be perceived as bullying, but we look at that as discipline.”
Hurst said the consequences for a student committing a one-time offense against another student and a student continuously bullying another student, however, are the same. But if the bullying continues after the student has been disciplined, it could lead to law enforcement getting involved, according to the rules in the student code of conduct
“If it continues — harassment or otherwise — the parent has the option to contact the school resource officer because it could become criminal,” he said. “We only try to contact the SRO if it’s a criminal act. If the school has done their part and it’s consistent, we may have to get the SRO involved, but that’s the last option. We don’t want them to get involved in an issue that the school can handle.”
Once an incident has been reported, school administrators have 24 hours to investigate it. During the investigation, the principal of the school where the alleged bullying took place will interview the student who was bullied and the alleged bully.
Then both students will have an opportunity to provide witnesses and share their sides of the story with the principal.
If the investigation determines that bullying took place, discipline will follow.
In addition to training students to report bullying, school staff will watch for bullying too, especially if it frequently occurs.
“There’s bullying hot spots, which are the bus area, the gym, PE, the hallways, classrooms, locker rooms, lunch rooms, parking lots and extracurricular activities,” Hurst said. “What the schools do is pay major attention to these areas. There are cameras in the hallways, on the bus, in the cafeterias and in the lunchroom. We’re going to have administrators whose jobs are to monitor.”
Hurst said they’re also asking each school to conduct a monthly anti-bullying program. They can come with their own ideas because bullying looks different at each school, especially at different grade levels.
“Schools may want to discuss what is bullying, how to report it, possibly take part in National Bullying Awareness Month in October, or some schools may have guess speakers and conduct surveys for students asking them questions like ‘have you ever been bullied?’ ” he said.
According to a report on BRAVE, documenting everything that takes place will be a critical component to the program’s success.
Hurst said overall, their ultimate goal is to have safe schools where students can learn, feel good about themselves, have good behavior and attendance.
Reach Jamon Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0204.