Under a law signed by Governor Patrick in May 2010, all Massachusetts schools had a December 31, 2010 deadline for filing comprehensive bullying prevention and intervention plans.
On November 10, only 3 of the 394 school communities had responded. On December 31, it was reported early in the day that 355 had submitted their plans, but right before the deadline, a flood of plans came in, resulting in 99 percent compliance (only six schools failed to meet the deadline).
I believe 99% compliance is an outstanding result, however I do have a few questions:
- Were the plans submitted comprehensive?
- Did the schools take the time to evaluate their individual school cultures, analyze their bullying reports, determine the best way to handle incidents, etc.?
- Or did they just fill in the blanks in the sample plan provided by the DOE and check off their compliance checklist?
The flood of plans on the deadline reminded me of how students put off their homework until the very last minute and then throw something together just good enough to get a passing grade….
Now that the December 31st deadline has come and gone, lessons learned show that the school’s most difficult steps begin… ensuring their plans are implemented effectively across all appropriate individuals (staff, faculty, students, parents, administration, mental health, school resource officers, law enforcement, etc.). Numerous lessons learned have also revealed that just having a plan or just having policies and procedures does not prevent incidents and suicides from happening.
If most schools already have plans…why are unwanted, expensive, embarrassing and tragic incidents still occurring in schools?
Systemic weaknesses involving individual level lack of awareness and lack of accountability along with systemic weaknesses with prevention tools and prevention efforts. To achieve better results, school leaders must understand their individual roles and responsibilities and school leaders must understand the best way to improve prevention are with tips…because it is nearly impossible to prevent any type of incident without tips. 2011 will be a critical year for school leaders and I am passionate about helping school leaders, victims, bystanders, teachers, staff, parents and entire communities to improve their prevention efforts beyond just having plans, programs and traditional incident reporting tools.