The anti-bullying committee commissioned by Greater Albany Public Schools recommends training, coordination and consistent responses to combat bullying throughout the district.
The task force presented those and other recommendations Monday as part of a report to the Albany School Board. The group plans to meet again March 21 to look at the steps they might take to move forward on some of those recommendations.
Superintendent Jim Golden commissioned the task force in December in response to parent complaints, particularly at North Albany Middle School, that their children were being harassed.
The parents asked for an investigation into current policies and practices. Golden asked the task force to evaluate those issues and also to research what other districts are doing, identify possible community partnerships, conduct community forums on the topic and estimate costs for any suggested training or materials.
Task force members Kraig Sproles, Rich Sipe, Gina Ayres, John Hunter and Liz Hanamoto — one of the North Albany parents — spoke Monday about their work to date.
The task force's first job was to define bullying, which it determined to be "any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated."
The definition also states, "Bullying may inflict harm or distress on the targeted youth involving physical, psychological, social or educational harm."
Task force members came up with six main recommendations to reduce bullying, with a number of suggestions for each. Costs have not yet been estimated.
The main recommendations are to focus on positive school culture and climate, establish and enforce clear rules and policies, provide administrators and staff with training in bullying prevention and appropriate responses, respond consistently and appropriately when bullying happens, coordinate and integrate prevention efforts, and continue efforts over time.
The group recommends schools begin the year by educating parents and students about the bullying policies and their consequences. Members said they also think expectations and consequences should be uniform across the district, and schools should strive for consistency in response time.
Right now, no standard data collection tool exists to measure how often bullying happens and how it is addressed, Sproles said. That's something the group also recommends as a change.
Under "training," the group recommends followup with support and behavior education for bullies, victims and their families. Under "coordination," the group recommends exploring programs that teach common vocabulary and expected behaviors.
Assistant Superintendent Tonja Everest said anti-bullying curriculum will be recommended for adoption before the end of the school year.
Hanamoto has ridden school buses to try to help curb bullying incidents there. She said numerous parent volunteers stand ready to help, and the task force would like to see opportunities expanded for volunteers to do more.
Sproles asked the board to designate the task force as a standing committee that makes regular reports.
"It's not a one-and-done, as you all know," he said. "It's going to take long-term commitment and long-term partnerships."