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Palm Beach County Lowers Bullying Rate

Ebony Joseph
A breakout group at a Palm Beach County schools roundtable event discussed new ideas for anti-bullying programs.

In the past two years, Palm Beach County schools have slashed the number of reported bullying cases by nearly 30 percent, down to 544 cases during the 2013 to 2014 school year from 748 cases the school year before.

As the district with the highest bullying rate in the state, the data supports a push to leave that status behind. 

To tackle the issue, nearly 60 school board officials, students and parents met Tuesday -- in the middle of summer -- for the county’s first anti-bullying roundtable.

Newly appointed superintendent Robert Avossa pointed out that technology has changed the way bullies operate, so the community must also change how it handles bullying.

“There wasn’t really an online opportunity for us to get bullied. Now, it’s relentless. It’s not just at school, it’s not just in...the neighborhood, it could be 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Several factors are at play in Palm Beach -- the largest county in the state -- where size may be contributing to the high rate, as well as the fact that the numbers are self-reported.

Palm Beach schools use anonymous tips lines and writing programs to help students report and work through bullying, but guests at the roundtable event worked to brainstorm new ideas.  

Many suggested starting an anti-bullying task force and creating more training programs to help teachers recognize and handle bullying in the classroom.

Democratic state Sen. Maria Sachs says she wants to help by bringing home about a million dollars from the state’s budget to start these initiatives.

“We’re the largest county…and the most diverse. It’s that diversity, that difference, that makes kids subject to others laughing at them and bullying them around…What I need to do in the state senate is further this conversation with other legislators and policy makers…so I can use Palm Beach as a model.”

Superintendent Avossa says he plans to bring the district together again in about three months to plan what’s next.