Nearly all Western Pennsylvania schools use the nationally recognized Olweus Bullying Prevention Program.
School violence declined by more than 40 percent in Western Pennsylvania in 2010-11 from the year before, according to state data released last week. Incidents in Allegheny County dropped by more than one-half.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that the decrease occurred even after new requirements upped the types of incidents schools must report to the state Department of Education. They include bullying, minor altercations and stalking.
"School districts are taking this seriously, and they are stepping up efforts, and they are dealing with students who are disruptive," said state Department of Education spokesman Tim Eller. He said efforts to improve reporting were aimed at giving parents a snapshot of safety problems in their school.
Many school officials point to their anti-bullying initiatives as a way to curb disciplinary problems.
Nearly all Western Pennsylvania schools use the nationally recognized Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. In addition to teaching students about how to identify and report bullying, it teaches students how to be good citizens.
"The philosophy is (that) when you shore up things like bullying and you teach kids the appropriate skills in classrooms, you alleviate the other problems like fighting," said Hillary Mangis, Carlynton School District's school psychologist and an Olweus trainer. "It teaches character education like: What is the thing to do when you're being bullied? What is it to be an empathetic person?"
Woodland Hills High School senior Molly Means, 17, said the anti-bullying program has made a difference at her school.
This year 25 juniors and 25 seniors are participating. They learn about types of bullying behavior, such as cyber-bullying, and perform skits at the elementary schools.
"It gives all the schools something to connect over," Means said. "I think ... it's another reason to take pride in our school."
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