CHOICES broadens anti-bullying program
State grant funds anti-bullying program and includes victim support services
Verbal, physical and psychological aggression can be forms of bullying when carried out over time with the intent to harm or disturb others. The consequences of bullying behaviors can include physical injury, social and emotional distress, depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, and poor school adjustment for the victims. Youth who bully others are at increased risk for substance use, academic problems, and violence later in adolescence and adulthood.
Last year, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) Victim Services & Public Safety Branch awarded the Tulare County Office of Education CHOICES Prevention Programs a two-year grant through its Bullying and School Violence Advocacy (XB) Program. The grant, which is being implemented this fall in 33 Tulare County CHOICES After School sites, will provide unprecedented levels of support to victims of bullying or school violence.
“The XB grant builds on the support we have been providing Tulare County school sites and their students,” said Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. “With it, we have the ability to directly counsel and refer victims of bullying as we work alongside districts to strengthen their anti-bullying policies.”
The XB grant will provide partner districts with an online reporting center for students to use in the event of bullying, plus training for administrators, teachers, classified staff and students. Sprigeo, the online reporting system used in Tulare County school districts since 2013, will serve as the tool for students, teachers and parents to report bullying incidents anonymously without fear of retaliation. The system also has an administrative tool for identifying behavior trends and demonstrating accountability.
When a report is received through the online reporting system, CHOICES staff will contact the victim. Once consent is provided, staff will arrange screening and assessment to develop a service plan that includes input from the victim. Victor Carrillo, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst with the Special Services Division, will provide counseling and create a referral for additional services, if needed. All referrals will be reviewed to ensure the victim is receiving the services needed. While TCOE will provide counseling to the victim of bullying and school violence, referrals may be made to additional support services, including the California Victim Compensation Board (CalVCB).
The XB grant will serve to mitigate incidents of bullying discovered in a recent survey of Tulare County middle and high school students conducted by CHOICES. In the spring of 2016, CHOICES administered the nationally-recognized PRIDE Learning Environment Survey to capture information about bullying, school climate and substance abuse with a sample of Tulare County students in 6th through 12th grades. The results of the survey illustrated the impact of bullying on the lives of Tulare County youth. Over 30% of students indicated that bullying has interfered with their school work. Nearly 32% indicated that students who strive to succeed academically are picked on and over 62% of students indicated “feeling left out” at their school. Nearly 15% of students in the survey have been threatened with harm at school while nearly 16% said they felt very afraid of being harmed while at school.
Gene Mendes, CHOICES school community liaison, reports that an online bullying prevention resource page is currently being developed for the TCOE website. Visit tcoe.org later this month for educational materials for school staff, students and parents. For more information on the CHOICES anti-bullying program, call Mr. Mendes at (559) 651-0155.
Tim A. Hire, County Superintendent of Schools
Tulare County Office of Education
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