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Newly created task force ready to tackle bullying in schools; first meeting scheduled

The Kentucky Youth Bullying Prevention Task Force will hold its first meeting Oct. 22, beginning its work to study bullying in schools and recommend practices and policies to help foster safer, harassment-free school environments.

The meeting will be at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 22, in the Auditorium Room A-3 at the Kentucky State Office Building, 501 High St., in Frankfort.

“Bullying has no place in the life of any child or adolescent, especially in a setting like a school where he or she should feel safe and be able to focus on learning,” said Gov. Steve Beshear, who announced the task force in September. “As this task force gets to work, we expect it to find solutions to make our schools safer and free of bullying and harassment. This is important for the well-being of individual students, and for everyone; we can’t have as strong a future workforce if bullying interferes with educating our young people.”

More than one in four Kentucky students aged 12 to 18 reported being bullied at school in 2011, and the Kentucky Department of Education recorded 15,520 incidents of bullying in Kentucky during the 2012-13 school year. That’s one reported bullying incident every four minutes of every school day.

The Youth Bullying Prevention Task Force will analyze existing laws and policies; interview school professionals, bullying victims and other experts; and collect training and resource materials. The group will submit its findings, including recommendations for policy initiatives and school practices, in a report to the governor by November of 2015.

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Members of the task force will receive purple and yellow ribbons to wear at the meeting as a symbol for anti-bullying awareness in the state. The first meeting of the task force comes during Anti-Bullying Month in Kentucky.

At Wednesday’s meeting, task force members will hear from Deborah Temkin, who previously served as the research and policy coordinator for bullying prevention initiatives at the U.S. Department of Education. Jon Akers, director of the Kentucky Center for School Safety, also will address the panel.

“Many people think of bullying as a natural part of growing up and something everyone has to endure – but that is not the case and we must work to reverse this way of thinking,” said Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Audrey Tayse Haynes. “Whether the abuse is physical or psychological, the impact of bullying is very real and can lead to low self-esteem, depression and, in the most tragic circumstances, suicide. It is our responsibility to take a look at this very important health issue and start preventing bullying.”

Twenty-two people were named to the anti-bullying task force last month. They include 11-year-old Morgan Guess, a Paducah student who experienced bullying and became an anti-bullying advocate. (See KyForward story here.)

Beshear today named additional members to the task force. Sen. Jared Carpenter and Rep. Rita Smart will serve on the panel. Also named to the panel are Scott Burrows, a businessman and member of the Trimble County Board of Education; and Patrice McCrary, of Bowling Green, a kindergarten teacher at Cumberland Trace Elementary in Warren County.

From Office of the Governor

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