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Community forum held after bullying video goes viral in Maryland

By Kim Dacey

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    SEVERNA PARK, Maryland (WBAL) — An honest conversation about acceptance and inclusivity was the focus of a forum held by Anne Arundel County Schools after a viral bullying video was posted on TikTok.

11-News was at the meeting Monday night at Severna Park High School, where just recently, there was a well-publicized case of bullying. School officials said this problem extends across the county.

“When a kid is bullied and made fun of in front of their friends, it’s like an assault, and we need to take it seriously,” Cathy Laner-Beckett, a concerned grandparent, said.

Parents, educators and community members gathered to talk about inclusion, diversity and how to make every student in Anne Arundel County feel accepted. A couple of weeks ago, a video was “air-dropped” to the building showing a student bullying another student with special needs.

“I wasn’t surprised, but I think it’s a wake-up call that we need to continue to monitor to continue to progress and pay attention to this important issue,” parent Marty Michalosky said.

The principal addressed that particular incident saying the perpetrator is no longer a student at Severna Park High and outlined new steps they’re taking. But this assembly is about more than just that one incident. And the new superintendent said he’s committed to changing the system through transparency and honesty.

“It’s bigger than inclusivity, right? It’s about access, it’s about acceptance, it’s about a sense of belonging. You accomplish those three things, you far exceed being inclusive as a system,” Mark Bedell, Anne Arundel County Schools superintendent, said.

Those who attended Monday broke into small groups for school system employees to get honest feedback and suggestions about how to proceed. The superintendent said those suggestions will be made public on their website.

“I feel the supports aren’t there for Anne Arundel County to support my child with special needs, and then also as part of that, I think there needs to be curriculum supports aides and a variety of other things that need to be put in place and strengthened,” Michalosky said.

“We need to be starting teaching kids to listen and understand and respect differences from the time they start school,” Laner-Beckettt said.

The superintendent also said they will consult with their legal team and look directly at policies to see if any need to change.

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