Bullying within the Howard County Public School System hasn't increased in recent years, schools superintendent Renee Foose said Monday. But with social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, it does present new outlets.
"Bullying hasn't increased, it's just now available to bullies 24/7 with social media," said Foose, who met Jan. 14 with the Howard County Council, state delegation representatives and the Howard County Police Department at the George Howard Building in Ellicott City.
The council called the meeting just a week after passing legislation calling for the formation of a multi-disciplinary team to address bullying and cyberbullying within the county.
"Basically we wanted to be briefed on what everyone is doing," council chairwoman Jen Terrasa said.
Patricia Daley, the district's executive director of Special Education and Student Services, said the school system has emphasized reporting possible acts of bullying. While that has led to more reports of bullying in some schools, it doesn't mean there is an increase in bullying, Daley said.
A school administrator can determine if bullying occurred only after an investigation, Daley said.
Council member Courtney Watson, who introduced the council's bill suggesting the formation a multi-disciplinary team, questioned if the school system has the appropriate resources to combat bullying.
Daley said the school system does not need additional resources, it just needs to work with what they have.
"This is the kind of work that will never be finished, we're evolving," she said.
Daley added that the school system's partners are "huge" in helping combat bullying.
"We're not trying to own it [bullying] alone, we value our partners," she said.
Watson questioned if the county's school resource officers are on Facebook and Twitter to serve as a deterrent to cyber bullying.
Lt. Chris Neubauer said the police department is looking to train all resource officers on social media, and that officers regularly use Facebook or Twitter for information once they get a tip from a student.
Watson said the meeting was "very good," but emphasized there is much more to be done.
"Today's discussion was just the tip of the iceberg," she said. "It takes more than the school system to address this in Howard County."