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HCPSS Interim Superintendent Joins Students and Community to Eliminate Bullying

October 19th, 2017

Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) Interim Superintendent Dr. Michael J. Martirano led a bullying prevention event today to rid schools and communities of destructive bullying behavior. The event took place at Atholton High School in Columbia.

At the event, Martirano introduced a new Public Service Announcement video featuring Christine McComas, parent of Grace McComas, a victim of cyberbullying and the inspiration for Grace’s Law. The video publicly reinforces a commitment from HCPSS to work alongside McComas to ensure that Howard County schools and communities are bully-free zones.

“We don’t want anyone suffering in silence,” Martirano told students. “The effects of bullying can be devastating to students and their families. Today, Christine McComas and I stand together alongside students, educators and community members to declare that our schools and community will no longer accept the horrible pain inflicted by bullying.”

Students Carolina Conte, Michaela Cohee, Elena Johnson and Rachel Katz from the Atholton High School Bully-Free Forever Club hosted the event and led attendees in a powerful kindness activity to help spread positive messages throughout the Atholton community and to reinforce the impact of hurtful behavior.

Board of Education Chairman Cynthia Vaillancourt shared experiences from her childhood of being bullied and the impact of a bystander who stood up to those bullying her. Vaillancourt also emphasized the importance of providing supports to students who engage in bullying to better understand the root causes of their behavior.

Watch the short version (2 mins) →

According to data released in March 2017 by the Maryland State Department of Education, 4,713 statewide incidents of bullying were reported during the 2015–2016 school year—an increase of 559 incidents from the previous year. Studies reflect the negative impact bullying has on the social and emotional well-being of its victims, which can manifest in potentially dangerous ways.

“Bullying, cyberbullying and harassment hurt, and can even destroy,” said McComas, whose daughter succumbed to the mental anguish caused by cyberbullying and took her own life. “We know that bullying is damaging to youths at such a vulnerable stage in life, yet today it is not uncommon to see adults and leaders calling names and making insults to huge audiences that include our children. Name calling, rudeness and bad behavior must not be normalized.”

The event raised awareness of the effects of bullying and highlighted the school system’s renewed commitment to providing additional prevention and awareness strategies for bullying prevention and mental health supports in schools.