First Lady Katie O'Malley Declares May 24-28 Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week

First Lady partners with State Superintendent Dr. Nancy Grasmick to engage schools across the State to prevent bullying; Talks to students and educators at Pikesville Middle School

PIKESVILLE, MD (May 24, 2010) – First Lady Katie O’Malley today declared the week of May 24th-28th as Maryland Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week, while visiting with students and educators at Pikesville Middle School in Baltimore County. During her visit, First Lady O’Malley discussed the importance of preventing harassment and highlighted the state’s recommitment to curtail the harmful effects of bullying on a child’s ability to learn. The efforts of Pikesville Middle School, including the creation of a “bully-free” zone, have worked toward this state-wide initiative. Pikesville students were given the opportunity to present their school’s bullying prevention programs and thoughts to the First Lady during her visit.

“Continued dedication to bullying intervention is an essential element to Maryland’s educational mission and our state’s future,” said First Lady Katie O’Malley. “Informing children of harassment’s long term impacts and providing them the tools to take action against it is a vital responsibility of our communities and schools in our effort to prevent bullying. I am honored to meet with the students of Pikesville Middle School who have already taken steps towards confronting this issue and are eager to share their ideas.”

 “All students throughout Maryland’s public schools have the right to a safe learning environment allowing them to succeed academically, free of any form of harassment,” said Nancy S. Grasmick, State Superintendent of Schools. “The bullying awareness and prevention program highlighted at Pikesville Middle School represents one of the many effective programs across the State that has been developed to prevent and intervene in bullying and harassment.”  

Last school year, 2008-2009, the Maryland State Board of Education reported 1,686 incidents of bullying, representing 2 reports filed for every 1,000 children in the state. It is likely that the extent of bullying is underreported because of the need for victims or parents to take the initiative to file a report. The most reported incidents of bullying involve middle school students between 11 and 14 years of age. While a little over half of these incidents are committed “just to be mean” or “to impress others,” 24.3 percent were motivated by actual or perceived personal characteristics, such as physical appearance, sex, race, religion, disability, national origin, or sexual orientation.

In reaction, the state and counties are taking corrective action to reduce the prevalence of bullying within its schools. First Lady O’Malley in partnership with State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Nancy Grasmick, sent a letter to all local Maryland superintendents asking them to set aside time for the topic of bullying and harassment prevention during this special week.

“It is our responsibility, as parents, coaches, mentors, guardians and family members, to ensure that our children have the safest possible environment in which to learn each and every day,” said Speaker Michael E. Busch. “I commend First Lady O’Malley on recognizing the importance of bullying awareness and working to keep our children safe from the effects of harassment.”

During the legislative session this year, Speaker Busch advocated for The Safe Schools Act of 2010, which breaks down communication barriers between school personnel and law enforcement, in order to prevent incidents of bullying and violence in schools. The legislation requires that intervention and prevention programs be identified so that children can be redirected into more positive activities.

During Bullying Prevention and Awareness Week, schools across the state will be engaging students in events stressing non-tolerance towards bullying. Cecil County school counselors will be visiting classrooms and giving lessons which include the use of trivia games, videos, books, role-playing strategies, and written reflections. Anne Arundel County schools just released a new data system which will allow students to log in and easily report information about bullying. Other schools across the state are celebrating bullying prevention by designating each day of the week to a different awareness activity. Others are encouraging students to participate in anti-bullying poster contests, school-wide assemblies, and other team-player activities.  In addition to these special events, schools will also refocus their attention on their long-term bullying prevention programs.

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