A marketing and outreach effort and an online- and web-based reporting system for incidents of bullying is part of a comprehensive anti-bullying effort launched Friday in Howard County.
Together with Howard County Public School System Superintendent Dr. Renee Foose, County Executive Ken Ulman also unveiled a new system for cameras on county school buses that will serve as an additional child-protection measure as part of the initiative, named "Stand Up HoCo."
Also unveiled Friday during a media event launching the program was the address of the mobile and web reporting system, which is accessible through
http://hoco.sprigeo.com. Reports of bullying will be reviewed and sent to responsible adults at the locations where incidents occur.
"As a parent, I worry about the very real effects of bullying. As a leader, I know Howard County can come together to change the way we think about and deal with this problem," Ulman said in a statement. "Our program is unique: we have public schools, private schools, sports leagues, parks and playgrounds, and community institutions coming together with a shared mission, and a shared message that bullying is unacceptable and must stop."
According to a news release, Stand Up HoCo has three primary components:
A social marketing and outreach effort, funded largely through $250,000 in the County budget proposed by County Executive Ulman and approved by the Howard County Council.
A menu of training and resources that will be available online and through program partners.
The online and mobile reporting tool,
Also this school year, a series of four individual cameras were installed in 100 of the newest vehicles used by the school system, with another 111 buses to be equipped by the end of the year. That would mean about half of the buses used by HCPSS would have the devices.
According to the release, images from the cameras are not monitored live; they are stored on locked hard drives and are available for review by officials such as school administrators and School Resource Offices as needed.
"Safety is our top priority. The cameras give school personnel a way to investigate and address bullying or otherwise disruptive activities that happen on the school bus," said Foose in a statement. "These cameras will help us to ensure that students get to school safely - both physically and emotionally - while riding a school bus."
Howard County officials found prior to launching the initiative through an online survey of more than 300 kids and more than 2,400 adults that two-thirds of kids surveyed report having ever been bullied, and that half of those who have been bullied, were bullied within the past 30 days.
In addition, 80 percent of kids surveyed have witnessed another kid being bullied. Half of those who have witnessed it reported seeing it happen frequently - two to three times a month or more.