New Canaan tackles bullying
While new legislation from Hartford has expanded the school district's role in bullying, Superintendent Dr. David Abbey says New Canaan is well ahead of the game with his team of administrators.
The legislation he says deals with intervening when an incident happens between two students on school grounds or even off school grounds, something New Canaan has dealt with long before the legislation was in effect.
"We take a broader view than to simply intervene, which we certainly do when it is necessary," Abbey said. "We try to promote the best kind of behavior, and in doing so you can limit hurtful behavior and bullying."
The legislation, which passed over the summer, requires schools to address bullying incidents and further defines what constitutes bullying.
Under the current law, bullying is defined as "written, verbal and electronic communications; physical acts and gestures by a student or a group of students directed against another student that causes the student physical or emotional harm or damages his or her property; puts the student in reasonable fear of harm or property damage; creates a hostile school environment for the student; infringes on the student's rights at school; or substantially disrupts the education process or a school's orderly operation."
The new bill requires all school employees to report any bullying incidents they see or are told about.
It also expands the actions that constitute bullying. Any time a student is targeted because of race, gender, sexual orientation and physical appearance, or they are targeted remotely through electronic communications or devices, that act is considered bullying.
Abbey specifically mentioned the district's Social, Academic and Personal Learning framework, which has been a district goal for years, as an example of promoting a safe and ethical environment.
"Through SAPL we try to teach students to act in respectful and supportive ways to each other show them how to participate in groups, be good teammates, and respect differences," Abbey said. "We've been working on our SAPL for several years and a lot of what we do is put structures and supports in place."
Abbey gave examples of those support structures in the middle school where every student works with the same group of teachers in order to really build a fundamental relationship. The district also implemented the fifth- and sixth-grade musical so that those students could meet with other students they may not have known with like minded interests.
"Each school has an array of activities that points to helping others so its built into what we do and always has," he said.
"The legislation is pretty broad. We do a great deal to make ourselves available to kids and to help them develop the tools in both the digital and real world. We want them to know how to advocate for themselves and for others who are having issues," Luizzi said. "If we see something that impacts a student's willingness or ability to learn then will do whatever we need to do to help. It's a part of our daily routine and would be even if the legislation was not in effect."
State Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, was a leading legislator behind the bill.
"It's difficult to keep laws updated with technology and this bill helps to address that issue," Duff said.
Even with the new stipulations, Duff said there shouldn't be new costs.
"In terms of hard costs there really aren't any but there is a cost in terms of time," he said.