Bedford County leaders are preparing to adopt a new tactic to handle bullying in schools.
At a meeting Thursday night, school board members will vote on whether to adopt a new "Bullying Prevention and Intervention" policy.
Although Bedford has previously had programs in place to address bullying, the new policy will establish a strict standard of conduct, and guidelines for handling issues of harassment.
"The school division felt that we needed to move forward to address, not only student needs, but also the staff needs, and to really hone in on the issue," said Sara Staton, Director of Special Services for Bedford County Public Schools.
School officials have been working on the new policy for several years. It defines bullying, and lays out consequences for students who commit the offense.
The policy requires teachers and staff to undergo annual bullying training. Principals would also meet with students every year, to talk about bullying and how to intervene if someone they know is a victim.
"It basically establishes, for the school community, and for parents and students, that bullying is not tolerated and it is prohibited," said Staton.
The new policy is a victory for Staunton River High School student, Laura Ellis. She has been publicly crusading against bullying, and asked the school board to adopt a stricter policy on the issue.
The new policy wasn't crafted in response to Ellis' pleas, but she's still pleased by the outcome.
"It makes me proud to know that my school system isn't afraid to take on important things like this," Ellis said.
Every school system in Virginia is required to have programs that address bullying, but few have crafted detailed policies like Bedford.
Ellis hopes her county will be an example for others.
"Its a comfort thing," said Ellis. "You need your students to be very confident in all of their work and their social lives at their school, instead of being worried."
If the new policy passes Thursday, it will go into effect when the new school year starts this fall.