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CPS' Bullying Prevention Policy Gets A Revise With Help From Students

Ambriehl Crutchfield
Cincinnati Public Schools' new bully prevention policy update was presented to the school's board Wednesday.

The Cincinnati Public Schools board is pulling in student voices in a new bully prevention report.

Community engagement company CoHear helped CPS host events to hear opinions of students who have experienced bullying for their take on how schools should tackle it.  

"It's not meant to replace policy expertise or academic expertise, which is also a part of our work," CoHear CEO Dani Isaacohn says. "It's meant to provide a different and unique angle. When you are living something every day you are going to have a much richer and more nuanced sense of what could actually work and what could be most helpful."

New recommendations for prevention include empathetic acknowledgement of bullying; peer-to-peer support to improve effort; trained adults at every school who are point-of-contacts; more training for all stakeholders to identify bullying; and shifting from punitive to restorative practices.

CPS says its goal is to reduce the number of substantiated bullying incidents per year. The policy is not tailored to each school and is meant to be a consistent definition of bullying and options for consequences.

Isaacohn says most times students didn't want to see their peers face punitive consequences. "There was a sense - especially from the kids - that if you keep giving students in-school suspension after in-school suspension or out-of-school suspension, it becomes numb for students who receive this punishment." Isaacsohn says students didn't feel punitive consequences were helpful in limiting bullying.

CPS Manager of Positive School Culture and Safety Carrie Bunger says the desire to create a positive school culture where students thrive prompted the change. "That's why CPS is making significant investments in this area, leveraging state and federal support. During our CoHear conversations, we heard loudly and clearly from our students and families that they wanted a more restorative approach."