NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — There is a new Virginia law going into effect across school districts in the commonwealth, with a main goal of improving school communities and making them a safer place.

Under SB 1072, administrators must notify parents of alleged bullying within 24 hours of learning about the situation. State legislatures don’t designate how it must be done, it could be through an email or even a phone call. Prior to the new law, school staff had a five-day notification period.  

Dehon Mack was a social worker for several years and an educator, and since 2017 she has been the Safe Schools and Mental Health Specialist for Norfolk Public Schools.

Once staff are aware of the incident, they go through a process of interviewing accusers, victims and witnesses.

“Parents might say if something is going on with my child and they aren’t safe or something is happening at school, like bullying. We want to know soon than five days,” Mack said. “We want it to be addressed immediately.”

About one out of every five students report being bullied, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.

Mack also helps to train the district on the new policy. 

She says forms and communication methods to parents have been updated. There has been a lot of preparation over the summer to ensure staff are ready to speed up their response to bullying incidents. 

“When we are rolling that training out, we like to say if you wear a badge that has NPS, you will receive this updated training on anti-bullying,” Mack said. “How to report, information about the new law, what the indicators are, the warning signs are. We recognize that bullying doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s not just those two students. And students talk to staff not just to their classroom teacher, could be a custodian, bus driver, or paraprofessional.” 

Mack said training will continue throughout the school year. School counselors will follow up and provide support to teachers and students.