Berkshire District Attorney David Capeless continues to take a leadership role in bullying prevention by providing innovative educational programs and training to the Berkshire County community.  This fall, the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office further enhanced its efforts by expanding programming to include two new educational components.

Passionate about education as a tool to reduce the risky behaviors in youth, District Attorney Capeless launched the District Attorney’s Community Outreach and Education Program’s Bullying Prevention Initiative seven years ago when incidents of bullying, harassment and hate crimes raised concerns within our community.

Well ahead of the May, 2011 passage of An Act to Prevent Bullying In Our Schools, District Attorney Capeless has worked tirelessly to educate school administrators, teachers, students and parents to recognize and respond to bullying.  The District Attorney has invested the time, talent and expertise of his staff to provide training, technical assistance and resources to help schools promote and foster a positive school environment where all students and staff feel safe and welcome.  

The Bullying Prevention Initiative offers numerous interactive prevention programs focusing on bullying, cyberbullying and the appropriate use of communication technology.  The age-appropriate programs raise student awareness about the short and long term consequences of bullying and give students the support and confidence to make smart choices.  In addition to the student programming available to grades K – 12, professional development workshops are offered to school staff along with specially-tailored programs for parents and guardians.

This year, with funding support from the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security and the Massachusetts Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the Kids on the Block and a Peer Mentor Leadership Program were added to round out an already expansive list of health and safety-positive behavior workshops available to students throughout the county.

The Kids on the Block, Inc., a troupe of educational puppets designed to teach children about disabilities, differences and social concerns, originated in 1977.  This research-based program is used as an education tool worldwide.  The Berkshire program, which launched in September, features three life-sized puppets who teach students how they can use their words and actions to help stop bullying behavior.  Through the magic of live puppet theater, students gain a deeper empathy for the targets of bullying and learn problem-solving strategies to empower bystanders.  The puppets tap into student’s imagination and skillfully deliver this important safety message.
Also new to the initiative this year is the Peer Mentor Leadership Program.  The program offers middle school students critical thinking and social skill training and provides them with   problem-solving strategies to become positive role models.  Upon completion of a core training program, students are equipped with the support and resources to lead positive behavior campaigns in their school and to participate in service learning projects for elementary students as well as participate in volunteer projects for their community.

District Attorney Capeless has represented the Massachusetts District Attorneys on the seven-member multi-agency Commission charged with conducting a review of the general laws and proposing changes to reflect any appropriate criminal component to the new bullying prevention law and to investigate parental responsibility and liability for bullying and cyberbullying.  The Commission recently reported its findings and recommendations to the general court in June of 2011.