New law to provide anti-bullying classes

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Come September, Brooklyn school principals will be able to order-up anti-bullying lessons thanks to a new law introduced by a Southern Brooklyn politician.

Councilman Lew Fidler (D–Canarsie) proposed legislation in October calling for the Commission on Human Rights, which already hosts conflict resolution and sexual harassment programs in schools, to provide classes on preventing physical harassment, verbal abuse and cyber-bullying at the request of principals.

Surprisingly, Mayor Bloomberg signed the bill into law June 7.

“It’s not often that the mayor passes one of my bills but [we’re glad he signed this],” Fidler said at a Sheepshead Bay civic group meeting Tuesday evening. “Because a moment’s impulse can ruin lives.”

Fidler and Bloomberg are often at odds, with the councilman blasting the mayor over bike lanes, cuts on social services and his handling of the clean-up following last year’s blizzard.

The mayor could not be reached for comment about why he chose to push through Fidler’s bill.

Local educators triumphed the bill, saying some Brooklyn kids could benefit from lessons on the golden rule of “treating others as you want to be treated” — both in their classroom space and in cyber-space.

“There haven’t been enough community programs to work with young people about this issue,” said teacher Scott Kravitsky, who in his 10 years on the job at PS 188 in Coney Island has seen a fair share of fights, teasing and, recently, online bashing. “Social networking sites have created new problems.”

The Department of Education recently received a $3-million grant from an independent reform group, the Community for Education Foundation, to offer workshops about respect to more than 850 middle and high schools.

The city does not keep track of cyber-bullying, but during the 2009–2010 school year, more than 8,000 bullying incidents were reported, according to a Department of Education audit.

Of course, old-fashioned beat-downs haven’t gone out of style.

For instance, last month an exasperated mother pulled her son from his Bergen Beach school after the boy suffered a pummeling in April that she says school officials should have prevented.

Now the mom, Gloria Hansen, is suing the city for $1.4 million and says she won’t put her kid back in Roy H. Mann JHS until she’s sure he’ll be safe there.

Hansen said she’s pleased to hear about the new anti-bullying programs, but added that lessons alone won’t solve the problem.

“Some kids are just unreachable,” she said. “School administrators need to do a better job of disciplining kids and directly helping the kids who are being bullied.”

Updated 3:07 pm, October 19, 2011
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