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School, police officials to meet with Prince George's County council on bullying

Local,Maryland,Education,Matt Connolly,Prince Georges County

Prince George's County is targeting bullying in a County Council presentation Tuesday on the effectiveness of current school safety measures.

School officials will discuss a drop in bullying incidents as well as security steps to be taken in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, according to county schools spokesman Briant Coleman. Officials also will address transportation issues, namely a lack of school bus drivers that has meant delayed buses and tardy students.

Interim Superintendent Alvin Crawley and Police Chief Mark Magaw are scheduled to speak, along with directors of school services, security and transportation.

"Our number of incidents involving bullying have really gone down," Coleman said. "We've made it easier for students to report the incidents they've experienced."

Bullying incidents in Prince George's County school skyrocketed in the 2009-2010 school year with 488 reports, up from 77 the year before, according to a Maryland Department of Education study. That jump is likely due to an increased emphasis on bullying and a push to ensure all incidents were reported, however.

Coleman would not release new bullying statistics, saying they will be revealed

at the presentation Tuesday.

Bullying in schools is not a new topic for the County Council. Councilwoman Ingrid Turner, D-Bowie, hosted a bullying summit called "Stop the Madness" at Bowie's Benjamin Tasker Middle School in September.

"Our children deserve to go to school in an environment that is safe and conducive to learning," Turner said. "We will provide students and their parents with the tools necessary to expose and appropriately confront all types of bullying behavior."

Prince George's is one of many school districts reassessing security after a shooter killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn, last month. The county is reviewing emergency safety protocols and looking to buy security equipment such as door buzzers, Coleman said.

Prince George's police officers stepped up visibility at county schools after the shooting, and schools have since had lockdown drills. High schools have school resource officers -- uniformed police officers on the premises -- that work "hand-in-hand" with school officials, according to police spokesman Lt. Bill Alexander.

As for the school district's transportation woes, Coleman said officials would have good news for the council.

"We've hired more drivers," he said. "We're working through some of the transportation issues."

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