Newtown Legislative Delegation member Rep Raghib Allie-Brennan (D-2) hosted a state-wide online Anti-Bullying and School Climate Forum on August 10 with the Commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equity & Opportunity.

“I’ve heard from many parents that they’re concerned about bullying,” Allie-Brennan said in an announcement for the event. “We owe it to our students to make sure our anti-bullying policies deter harassment and intimidation, and staff have clear guidelines as to what constitutes bullying and how to take appropriate action. That is why I am hosting this panel, to give parents, educators, and members of our community an opportunity to ask questions and help inform our legislative work as the state considers reforms to our anti-bullying laws.”

Allie-Brennan was one of the participants of the program, which focused on allowing anti-bullying experts to speak. When he spoke, Allie-Brennan thanked all of the speakers for being part of the forum.

Steven Hernández Esq, director of the Commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equity & Opportunity opened the event, saying the event offered an opportunity for leaders across the state to learn together.

The event highlighted the history of the state’s anti-bullying laws and programs. Some people, like Old Saybrook Superintendent Jan Perruccio, spoke about implementing social/emotional support positions and the types of practices the district uses to respond to bullying. Perruccio said focusing on restorative practices, like how students can restore their relationships, is one part that could be supported more across the state. More support position personnel, Perruccio said, would offer support for all school districts.

State Representative Liz Linehan (D-103) also participated in the event, sharing her background with work on the state’s bullying legislation.

“We wanted to make sure that children were going to get the services that they needed,” Linehan said.

Linehan later said it is important for the laws to be continually updated.

“We have to learn to grow and change with the needs of the community and that is what is happening,” said Linehan, adding that there seems to be a problem with the way the law is communicated across the state.

State Representative Kathleen McCarty (R-38) said she thinks that by working together one day bullying behaviors will diminish.

Other state school district leaders shared that discipline is not the answer but learning is the answer, and that students who behave in ways defined as bullying need help, not a label. Others spoke about how the language used around bullying matters.

Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) Executive Director Fran Rabinowitz also spoke about working together with children to learn the kinds of tools that teachers and school district staff can be given to impact these efforts. She also reflected on the importance of involving local communities as a whole in being mentors for students.

State Representative Kathy Kennedy (R-119) said all of the panelists are “rock stars,” and she is looking forward to seeing something positive come out of the forum.

Closing out the event, Hernández thanked all of the participants, adding that the forum helped to “get closer” to a pro-social/emotional restorative practice.

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