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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

State Initiatives to Prevent and Address Bullying in Schools

To:Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:April 16, 2010

In recent months, the issue of bullying and harassment in our schools has received a great deal of attention in the media, in schools, in the state legislature, and from families. Legislative proposals to prevent and respond to bullying in our schools have passed in the House and Senate and are now being reconciled for final passage and presentation to the governor for his signature. I strongly support the initiative to enact a state law that would clearly define and prohibit bullying (including cyber-bullying that affects the school community), require public schools to adopt and implement policies to prevent and address bullying, ensure that schools inform all students, staff, and parents about the policies and take other steps needed to provide a safe and supportive school environment. Both the House and Senate versions of the bill call upon the Board and Department to provide guidance and technical assistance to schools in carrying out these responsibilities.

Last month, the Board had a thoughtful discussion on the work of the Massachusetts Behavioral Health and Public Schools Task Force, which has been charged with developing a "behavioral health services framework" to improve educational outcomes for students who experience behavioral health challenges. This month we will continue our discussion of efforts to promote a positive school climate and the social/emotional well-being of students by focusing on state initiatives to address and prevent bullying in schools.

I am pleased that Dr. Elizabeth Englander, professor of psychology and founder and director of the Massachusetts Aggression Resource Center at Bridgewater State College, will be at the meeting to present to the Board on "Preventing and Addressing Bullying in Schools." Dr. Englander consults widely with K-12 educators and law enforcement. In her presentation, Dr. Englander will highlight current issues and best practices in the area. In addition, Associate Commissioner John Bynoe will review with the Board the Department's current activities related to the issue.

Following these presentations, Dr. Englander, Associate Commissioner Bynoe, and I look forward to a productive discussion with the Board on this timely and important topic.

Last Updated: April 20, 2010
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