The recent case of Phoebe Prince, the 15-year-old Massachusetts girl who allegedly committed suicide after being bullied by several classmates, focused attention on the problem of bullying in schools. To complement schools’ bully-prevention efforts, several local governments have initiated anti-bullying campaigns to combat the problem after school hours.
Hillsborough County, Fla., began its Bully Busters program last August following an incident in which several middle school boys were accused of attacking a younger student. Commissioner Rose Ferlita proposed the creation of an anti-bullying advisory committee, which led to the creation of Bully Busters.
Bully Busters launched a website (www.hillsboroughcounty.org/bullybusters) in March. The program also has printed 5,000 posters and 10,000 bookmarks, designed anti-bullying pledges, and there are 50 bus benches around the county carrying Bully Buster information. “The school has a great [anti-bullying] program, but theirs is just [during] school hours,” Michel says. “A lot of bullying takes place after school.”
The Bully Busters program aims to prevent bullying through public awareness, education and intervention, and community support. The program’s website contains information on the effects of bullying, where to report bullying, and tips on stopping bullying. Adult and youth anti-bullying pledges also are available on the site.
Most anti-bullying campaigns are sponsored by school systems, because most officials see it as a problem that originates in schools, says Jacqueline Byers, director of research for the Washington-based National Association of Counties. However, Byers has found that several counties around the country have programs similar to Hillsborough County’s Bully Busters, some dating back several years. “There are a lot of programs out there, and as bullying reaches communities, [counties] finally have to address it,” Byers says.
More locals curb bullying
The Chester County, Pa., Sheriff’s Office’s “Bullying Hurts” program offers sessions to school students on how to prevent bullying, with mentorship between high school and elementary school students. More information is available at www.dsf.chesco.org.
Dakota County, Minn.’s County Attorney’s office has produced a brochure titled “Bullying and Harassment: What can schools do?” The county also offers tips on violence prevention on its website, www.co.dakota.mn.us.