Bullying may occur within places of education, but education is a key component of prevention.
Two prevention resource officers for Ohio County Schools recently attended the National Conference on Bullying hosted by the School Safety Advocacy Council. The event, held Feb. 26-28 in Orlando, Fla., was presented in partnership with the Florida Association of School Administrators and the Florida Association of School Resource Officers.
At the conference, which is the largest of its kind and brings together educators, law enforcement officials and community representatives, Sgt. Tom Howard and Sgt. John Schultz networked and learned valuable information on the issues surrounding bullying.
WHEELING POLICE DEPT. SGT. TOM HOWARD
"We got a lot of good out of this. (Wheeling Police) Chief Schwertfeger was very much behind us going," said Howard, who is the prevention resource officer for Triadelphia Middle School, Madison Elementary School, Steenrod Elementary School and Woodsdale Elementary School. Schultz serves as the prevention resource officer for Wheeling Middle School. An Ohio County Schools prevention resource officer is also stationed at Wheeling Park High School.
Whereas other states have school resource officers who handle situations once they occur, West Virginia is the only state with prevention resource officers focusing on prevention efforts, according to Howard. He said it is important for prevention resource officers in schools to build a rapport with students so they are not afraid to talk to officers when issues such as bullying arise.
"They've known us for years because we've been teaching (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) in elementary schools. That's where we start talking about stuff. Involvement is a big thing," Howard said, adding officers also attend school events such as athletic games and dances.
Ohio County Schools continue to host prevention education, including a cyberbullying presentation held March 11 at Bridge Street Elementary School.