To coincide with National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, Newark Public Schools held its Week of Respect Oct. 2-8 as part of a month-long initiative of anti-bullying programming throughout district schools.
Students throughout Newark are engaging in tolerance and anti-bullying activities and education throughout the designated month, which brings together thousands of schools, communities and organizations across the globe to raise awareness about bullying prevention.
The initiative was launched by the Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights (PACER) National Bullying Prevention Center in October 2006.
Deputy Superintendent of Newark Public Schools Robert Gregory said that workshops and discussions will be held throughout the month, with lessons being integrated into the curriculum across district schools.
“This week is the Week of Respect throughout the state and all students in Newark and across the state are engaging students in tolerance and anti-bullying programs and lessons,” Gregory said. “The East Side community, like many schools, will be wearing blue today and every Monday throughout the month of October in recognition of anti-bullying month.”
The district was recently catapulted into the spotlight after the attack on Kylie Perez, a 14-year-old transgender freshman at East Side High School, who was assaulted by a group of students at the school.
The assault was caught on video and is currently being investigated as a possible bias crime.
Gregory said the school has been working with students, as well as with the Perez family specifically.
“Our student support team will be assisting with implementation of these activities," Gregory said. "The school's social worker, guidance team, and administration have been working with the family to ensure our young scholar feels safe and secure.”
NPS Executive Director of Student Support Services Sunne-Ryse Smith said the National School Climate Center reports that one in three students report being bullied.
“Schools should be one of the safest spaces for young people to engage with their peers, grow academically and learn life lessons,” Smith said. “Newark Public Schools stand with districts around the country to promote National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month and create those spaces for our students. Through community partnerships and the commitment of school staff, NPS students, parents, and educators will engage in activities and thoughtful dialogue about inclusion, acceptance, bullying prevention, and respect. Students deserve to feel secure when they go to school and we are committed to creating safe school communities.”
According to a 2016 report generated by the National Center for Educational Statistics, more than one out of every five students report being bullied.
The federal government began collecting data on school bullying in 2005, when the prevalence of bullying was around 28 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Sixty-four percent of children who were bullied did not report it, according to statistics.
Studies show that more than half of bullying situations stop when a peer intervenes on behalf of the student being bullied, with school-based bullying prevention programs decreasing bullying by up to 25 percent.
Students reported being bullied most often because of their looks, body shape and race.
The Center for Disease Control reports that students who experience bullying are at increased risk for poor school adjustment, sleep difficulties, anxiety and depression. In addition, students who engage in bullying behavior are at increased risk for academic problems, substance use and violent behavior later in adolescence and adulthood.
NPS District Anti-Bullying Specialist Karen Fennell said that schools will hold assemblies on tolerance and sensitivity each Friday throughout the month.
“They will discuss inclusion and diversity,” Fennell said, who noted that professional development for staff will begin on Oct. 25. "The professional development will focus on supporting LGBTQ youth and sensitivity training.”
NPS recently passed a resolution supporting school safety and educational opportunities for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning students and was passed unanimously by the Schools Advisory Board.
The initiative seeks to maintain and enforce anti-bullying policies explicitly protecting LGBTQ students, including ensuring transgender students are treated in a manner consistent with their gender identity.
NPS will be developing family engagement and support for families of LGBTQ students, provide resources on LGBTQ issues, designate building-level staff familiar with LGBTQ issues, will provide professional development training to teachers, administrators and support staff on issues affecting LGBTQ students and implement LGBTQ--inclusive health education curriculum to students in grades 2-12
The board will also work actively with outside LGBTQ advocacy groups in order to set the tone for an inclusive school district.