The U.S. Department of Education has thrust itself into a raging debate on school bullies, citing high-profile student suicides and lagging school performance as justification for a pilot program that would rate schools on their bullying climate, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Speaking at an educator convention, a top administrator said the voluntary $30 million pilot program would alert parents, children and staff if schools are failing to guard against harassment and taunting. “Kids can’t learn if they don’t feel safe. Period,” said Kevin Jennings, assistant deputy secretary of education.
Jennings said the funding would enable states to create their own bullying rating systems. The program would be the first measurable anti-bullying program endorsed – both philosophically and financially – by the federal government. And, he said, it would be first in which parents as well as students and staff would be involved in contributing survey information about their schools to develop the ratings. The pilot program would include five to seven states, most likely from a pool of about 30 that already have some form of statewide school assessment on bullying. It would be expanded to include all states willing to develop their own standards for all public schools.