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Saturday, May 26, 2018
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Anti-bullying summit will team Pasco officials, students, community members

WESLEY CHAPEL - The Pasco County school district plans to take bullying head-on this week. An all-day event Thursday called "Together We Stand - Pasco Youth and Community Summit" is expected to bring together high school students, parents, educators and community leaders to discuss youth violence and other problems facing young people. The summit will be at the Wesley Chapel Center for the Arts at Wesley Chapel High School. About 120 people have registered to participate, including school board Chairwoman Cynthia Armstrong, board Vice Chairwoman Alison Crumbley and representatives from the sheriff's office, the Department of Juvenile Justice, the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay and numerous other government agencies, businesses, community organizations and churches.
Roy Kaplan, a consultant who specializes in diversity issues affecting young people, will deliver a keynote address, then participants will work in breakout groups with the goal, as the school district puts it, of "making Pasco County a place where students exist in a non-hostile environment and accept each others' differences." Social media, a tool sometimes used for bullying, also will come into play. Students and other participants will be encouraged to tweet their questions and ideas on Twitter with the hash tag Pasco2gether. The summit sprang in part from an agreement the school district reached last month with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. The federal agency began a discrimination investigation in 2012 after the parents of a Zephyrhills High student filed a complaint saying their son was the victim of "gay baiting" at school, although they say he is not gay. The student, Zach Gray, suffered brain damage after he attempted to commit suicide by hanging himself in 2011. Bullying has become a major topic for schools in recent years. A 2012 survey reported that 25.2 percent of Pasco students and 22.9 percent of students statewide say they worry about bullying. Meanwhile, in Pasco, 9.2 percent said they had been kicked or shoved in the past 30 days, 26 percent said they had been taunted or teased in the past 30 days and 8.2 percent said they had been cyber bullied in the past 30 days. Also, in that same 30-day time frame, 4.9 percent of Pasco students said they had physically bullied someone, 16 percent said they had verbally bullied someone and 4.3 percent said they had bullied someone online. [email protected] (813) 371-1853 Twitter: @RBlairTBO
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