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School directors to present anti-bullying measures

By Ryan Cornell

Bullying is a problem that certainly isn't new, but some of the practices and programs being implemented by Shenandoah County public schools are.

David Hinegardner, director of middle and secondary education, and Stacey Leitzel, director of elementary education, will share some of the anti-bullying programs currently being used at the county's schools at a school board meeting Thursday night.

Hinegardner said these programs were chosen because they educate children, fit the social climates of the schools, involve stakeholders of the community outside the schools, establish a clear set of rules to students about boundaries, and increase adult supervision in areas where incidents are traditionally prevalent.

One example of a program implemented in two Shenandoah County middle schools is Rachel's Challenge, a nonprofit organization created by the parents of a student killed at Columbine to quell school violence, bullying and teen suicide.

"Students are more apt to buy into this because it's not something superficial or made-up, but a mature level that middle school kids can relate to," said Hinegardner. "The challenge is for students to be nice to one another, treat one another fairly and not put down one another."

Last year, Strasburg High School adopted 26 Acts of Kindness, a challenge of goodwill that began after the Newtown, Conn., tragedy.

"That's another example of a program that meets the components of a best practice program," Hinegardner said. "It educates, it focuses on the social environment, involves a larger group of people than just the school and sets clear rules."

He said a majority of bullying incidents begin in cyberspace over the Internet, social media and instant messaging.

"They do not start in the schools," he said. "They start outside of the school and they manifest themselves and grow inside the schools."

And although many are quick to suggest a "hit back" approach when it comes to bullying, the programs discourage against it. Instead, Hinegardner said victims of bullying should make a clear and definitive statement expressing the bully to stop, and then should notify an adult.

"We absolutely do not advocate hitting or physically doing that," he said. "Rarely does that truly make a difference. That might make a difference in the immediate, but somewhere down the line, that's not going to lead to a positive outcome."

He said the presentation also will define what exactly characterizes bullying.

"Bullying is a repeated hostile or aggressive behavior with an intention to harm somebody," he said. "Those are important descriptors because sometimes something might happen one time in an isolated event and the word bullying is attached to it and it's not bullying."

According to Hinegardner, January serves as National Bullying Awareness Month. The school board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m., Thursday, at 600 N. Main St., Woodstock.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com

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