State-Wide Bullying, Sexual Harassment Summit in Albemarle County

By: Jessica Cunnington Email
By: Jessica Cunnington Email

June 17. 2013

School is out for summer but leaders from all over Virginia came together Monday to tackle one of the biggest school issues

"What is bullying and how it affects school climate but also when does it become a crime and what we need to do to support victims," said Donna Michaelis, Director of Virginia School Safety at the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services.

The Bullying and Sexual Harassment Summit was put together by the Virginia Departments of Education, Health and Criminal Justice Services. It aims to break down the difference between bullying and sexual harassment and how to appropriately take care of both issues in schools.

"Have a climate in your school where you notice if a child is not engaged, if they're withdrawn, if they seem to not be participating," Michaelis said. "It's the adults responsibility to create a climate so they know when they see a change in a child's behavior so they know when they see something to report it and to intervene."

This is what is especially important to parents like Jenny Pritchett who says her daughter was bullied and sexually assaulted in school.

"It needs to be something the teachers know, the guidance counselors know, the school resource officer knows, the security guards," she said.

Pritchett says communication is the key to having parents trust the school their children go to, most importantly when bullying or an assault occur.

"Not until you know what it is and acknowledge you know what it is, can you prevent it or help those who are going through it," she said.

There was little to no Charlottesville or Albemarle County presence at the conference Monday.

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