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Beshear Calls For School Bullying Solutions

Frankfort, Kentucky - State Capitol Building
Henryk Sadura
Frankfort, Kentucky - State Capitol Building

Outgoing Gov. Steve Beshear has unveiled a set of recommendations designed to combat bullying in Kentucky schools.

The governor-appointed Youth Bullying Prevention Task Force is recommending the state come up with a comprehensive definition for bullying, which isn’t explicitly defined in the 15 state laws that already address it.

The task force also called for investing in behavioral health counselors, adopting standards for local school districts to “promote a positive, safe climate and culture,” and the creation of a state agency to coordinate anti-bullying efforts.

During a news conference on Tuesday, Beshear said children who are bullied are more likely to have trouble learning.

“They don’t reach their potential,” Beshear said. “That hurts our workforce, and long-term it hurts our state by robbing it of our most precious resource: our people and our intellectual capital.”

According to a survey conducted by the Kentucky Department of Education in 2013, there were 15,512 bullying incidents in the 2012-13 school year.

Beshear, whose term ends in December, called on the next governor and state legislature to approve anti-bullying legislation.

“I’m determined, or as much as I can be as an outgoing governor, to make sure that this stays on the front burner and that the next administration addresses it and that the next legislative session addresses it,” Beshear said.

Audrey Haynes, secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said bullying should be treated as a public health issue.

“We learned that there is really no one magic solution to bullying, and we learned that we must approach it systematically,” Haynes said. “The communication, intervention, appropriate behavioral health screening — all of this is important for us to begin to see improvement.”

Haynes also said that because of social media, today’s students find it more challenging to escape bullying.

“It’s a lot more challenging for them to grow up successfully now," she said.

The governor-appointed task force recommended that bullying be defined as "unwanted verbal, physical, or social behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time and can happen anywhere.”

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. Email Ryland at rbarton@lpm.org.