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'It Does Matter'

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In 2012, more than 57,000 incidents of aggressive conduct were reported in West Virginia schools.

The West Virginia Department of Education hopes that number will decrease 10 percent by the end of this school year with the help of a new statewide bullying prevention campaign.

The "It Does Matter" campaign was unveiled Thursday at Lewis County High School as part of Bully Awareness Week, and will help students, staff and parents across the state better identify and combat bullying.

"Our key message is that it does matter what everyone -- students, teachers, parents and the entire community -- does to stop bullying," West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple said in a news release. "The campaign provides resources and outreach materials for schools to start the conversation about bullying prevention. It is my hope that all West Virginia schools and their communities empower themselves with these useful tools."

The campaign launched its website, www.itdoesmatterwv.com, Thursday. It outlines signs of bullying, state and federal bullying laws and a variety of resources for both the bullied and the bullies.

"It Does Matter" will use social media to engage people about bullying issues in the state, and will use the hashtag #itdoesmatter on Twitter to get the conversation going.

Students are not only encouraged to not bully others, but also to stand up and speak out if they witness a bullying situation.

A large portion of the campaign focuses on cyberbullying.

"Always think about what you post online, through text messages or emails. You never know what someone will forward. Being kind to others online will help to keep you safe. Do not share anything that could hurt or embarrass anyone," the student section of the website reads.

Teachers are instructed to educate about bullying through discussions and evidence-based programs, and to create a safe and supportive environment by managing their classrooms closely.

School staff should monitor bullying "hot spots" in and around the building and communicate with bus drivers, cafeteria staff and other colleagues about what they see on a daily basis.

"Establish a culture of inclusion and respect that welcomes all students. Reward students when they show thoughtfulness and respect for peers, adults, and the school," the site says.

Messages like, "It does matter what you say, what you do, how you act" will be displayed on school bathroom mirrors with information about the campaign. The campaign is an extension of a new policy adopted by the state Department of Education last year that outlines expected behavior in schools for addressing bullying situations.

The state became the seventh in the country to enact the Jason Flatt Act of 2012, which requires educators be trained to recognize students at risk of suicide.

Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.


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