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Fairfield Aims To Stop School Bullying

FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Bullying is a problem in schools. But Andrea Leonardi, director of special education, pupil services and special programs, and Fairfield’s Board of Education are taking steps to stop it before it happens.

“This has really been a long time coming,” said Sue Brand, chair of the board’s policy subcommittee. “It may not be perfect, but honestly it’s very thorough.”

The board took its first look at changes in the district’s bullying policy at its meeting Tuesday night. The new plan would add specific references to cyberbullying, mentioning the Internet and cell phone communication. It would also add direct mentions to exclusion and discrimination as forms of bullying along with physical attacks and name-calling, to match changes in the state’s policy .

But along with expanding what it considers bullying, the school board’s proposed policy change would also change the way Fairfield handles offenders and victims. Leonardi said the biggest change would be in preventing bullying from occurring in the first place. Starting in the 2012-13 school year, the district would institute a “Safe School Climate Plan” with hopes of changing the environment at schools.

“It’s going to change from response only to prevention, intervention and response,” Leonardi said. “I am hopeful that … we can create a policy that really does improve school climate, and make bullying not part of the conversation.”

The “climate change” would include more supervision at areas such as playgrounds and lunchrooms, where much bullying can occur. It would also build a curriculum to work anti-bullying messages into lesson plans.

If the board approves the Safe School Climate Plan when it’s ready at the end of the year, beginning next July the district would also appoint a staff member to be the Safe School Climate coordinator, to oversee anti-bullying programs at all Fairfield schools. Each school will choose one teacher or administrator to be its own Safe School Climate specialist and appoint a committee to make sure the school handles bullying cases properly.

The board will vote on the policy change at its next meeting. The full Safe Schools Climate Plan will also come to a vote at the end of 2011.

To reach Greg Canuel, email gcanuel@thedailyfairfield.com .

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