MONROE – Union County Public Schools has traditionally relied on schools to develop their own anti-bullying plans, but the district is rolling out a more consolidated approach.
Tracy Strickland, student support director, provided an overview of a uniform K-12 bullying prevention plan Jan. 30 to members of the Union County Board of Education’s curriculum committee. Strickland said the push for consistency across the district will have schools using the same terminology and practices, so students don’t have to learn anything new when they move from one school to the next.
The district began the process by looking at how schools define bullying. Strickland said the terminology should be more student-friendly.
“In its most simple forms, bullying is verbal, it’s physical, it’s social, it’s anything done through technology,” Strickland said. “It has a three-prong definition. First of all, bullying is on purpose, Secondly, it’s repeated. Thirdly, the student or person being bullied has a hard time stopping the bullying behavior.”
UCPS will adapt Safe & Civil Schools as its bullying prevention curriculum. It has already been deployed in high priority schools identified in the district’s Educator Performance Incentive and Career Pathways program.
Strickland and Tracey Carney, a social emotional learning coordinator, have also developed a presentation, Bullying Prevention 101, to explain at a series of community forums to be held this month at five high schools: Cuthbertson, Forest Hills, Parkwood, Piedmont and Sun Valley. Each will be open to residents across the county.
Superintendent Andrew Houlihan said the forums will educate stakeholders, including parents, teachers, students and community members, about bullying and social-emotional health similar to its forums on opioid abuse in 2018.
“Our staff and partners can come together and really educate our community about what is bullying and what it is not,” Houlihan said.
Jarrod McCraw, assistant superintendent of student support for Union County Public Schools, said the education series will help the community better understand the differences among aggressive behaviors, harassment and bullying.
“I’m excited to hear this,” school board member Travis Kiker said. “I think this is a big problem we need to address.”
Houlihan said he’s incredibly proud of the school district’s efforts around safety.
“In my conversations with superintendents and others, UCPS, for good reason, is renowned in this state for leading the efforts around safety – not just physical safety, but social, emotional and mental safety,” Houlihan said.