Howard County Executive Ken Ulman Launches Community-Wide Anti-Bullying Effort
(Targeted News Service Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) ELLICOTT CITY, Md., Oct. 25 -- Howard County issued the following news release:
Howard County Executive Ken Ulman today launched a comprehensive community-based anti-bullying initiative, which includes a marketing and outreach effort and an online- and web-based reporting system for incidents of bullying. A coalition of educational, recreational and community-based partners will be working together to combat this serious problem.
Together with Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) Superintendent Dr. Renee Foose, County Executive Ulman also unveiled a new system for cameras on HCPSS buses that will serve as an additional child-protection measure.
County Executive Ulman announced the name of the anti-bullying initiative, which is being called "Stand Up HoCo," as well as the address of the mobile and web reporting system, which is accessible through http://hoco.sprigeo.com. The campaign slogan and logo were developed through community participation in a County social media survey and voting promotion. Reports of bullying will be reviewed and sent to responsible adults at the locations where incidents occur.
"As a parent, I worry about the very real effects of bullying. As a leader, I know Howard County can come together to change the way we think about and deal with this problem," said County Executive Ulman. "Our program is unique: we have public schools, private schools, sports leagues, parks and playgrounds, and community institutions coming together with a shared mission, and a shared message that bullying is unacceptable and must stop."
Stand Up HoCo has three primary components:
* A social marketing and outreach effort, funded largely through $250,000 in the County budget proposed by County Executive Ulman and approved by the Howard County Council.
* A menu of training and resources that will be available online and through program partners.
* The online and mobile reporting tool, http://hoco.sprigeo.com.
In publicizing the program on Friday, County Executive Ulman was joined at the Dancel Family Y in Ellicott City by HCPSS Superintendent Dr. Renee Foose, who announced a related initiative for monitoring cameras on Howard County school buses. Starting this school year, a series of four individual cameras were installed in 100 of the newest vehicles used by the school system, with another 111 buses to be equipped by the end of the year. That would mean about half of the buses used by HCPSS would have the devices. Images from the cameras are not be monitored live; they are stored on locked hard drives and are available for review by officials such as school administrators and School Resource Offices as needed.
"Safety is our top priority. The cameras give school personnel a way to investigate and address bullying or otherwise disruptive activities that happen on the school bus," said Dr. Foose. "These cameras will help us to ensure that students get to school safely - both physically and emotionally - while riding a school bus."
U.S. Senator Ben Cardin participated in the program announcement, and said he would lend his support to all efforts to combat bullying.
"We need to know that our kids are safe. And our kids need to know that if they're being harassed at school or out in their communities, they have somewhere to turn and that life really does get better," said Senator Ben Cardin. "Howard County is taking concrete steps toward ending this cycle of bullying. I'm proud to support legislation that would make the federal government a better partner in helping states and local communities."
Howard County Councilwoman Courtney Watson, the lead sponsor of local legislation to address bullying, stressed that the community will continue to come together. "We are still dealing with the after-effects of horrible incidents in Howard County. We will do all we can to help children, parents and others change behavior and change community norms."
The online and mobile reporting system, the use of which was donated for a year by the company, California-based Sprigeo, has previously been used only in school settings. This is its first application community-wide.
"We are pleased to be part of the Howard County effort for broad outreach to combat bullying," said Joe Bruzzese, CEO and founder of Sprigeo.com. "Our system has been used effectively in schools across the country, and will be a great asset for the community partners in Howard."
In addition to the school system and the Y of Central Maryland, other current partners in Stand Up HoCo are the: Howard County Library System; the Columbia Association; Elkridge Youth Organization; Howard County Youth Programs; Resurrection St. Paul School; Trinity School; St. Louis School; St. Augustine School; St. Johns Parish Day School; and Howard County Recreation and Parks.
In launching the program, Howard County conducted a survey to identify baseline attitudes about bullying. The online survey of more than 300 kids and more than 2,400 adults showed that two-thirds of kids surveyed report having ever been bullied, and that half of those who have been bullied, were bullied within the past 30 days. The majority of kids - over 80% - have witnessed another kid being bullied. Half of those who have witnessed it reported seeing it happen frequently - two to three times a month or more.
"We need to change those numbers. We need to change the attitude that this is OK, and part of growing up," County Executive Ulman said. "I think we can do just that."
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(c) 2013 Targeted News Service
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