Burns, St. Francis and schools announce grant for countywide anti-bullying program

Program for local schools made possible thanks to state grant

LORETTO, Oct. 22 – Standing with local educators and the president of St. Francis University, state Rep. Frank Burns today announced the launch of a new countywide anti-bullying program in local schools. The program’s launch was made possible thanks to a $50,000 state grant that Burns secured and also announced today.

“Today marks the start of the next step in our fight against bullying in our schools,” said Burns, who has worked for years to address bullying. “No child should ever go to school and be tormented, tortured or terrorized. This program will make our schools safer places for our kids and put the focus where it needs to be – on learning.”

Last school year, Burns worked with a local software company, HIBster, to provide bullying tracking software to Penn Cambria School District to track bullying reports, school officials’ follow up actions and pinpoint problem areas where bullying repeatedly occurred. The grant announced today will expand that program to all school districts and both Catholic high schools in Cambria County, under the guidance of St. Francis University.

"One of the core values of Saint Francis University as a Catholic Franciscan institution is to foster respect for the uniqueness of individuals,” said the Very Rev. Malachi Van Tassell, president of the university. “I am proud to support this initiative, which stands as a resource against bullying and helps children to learn to appreciate each other's special combination of God-given abilities."    

The pilot program has evolved over more than two years, starting when Burns held a discussion on bullying in 2018 in Upper Yoder Township, then refined his legislation and helped connect HIBster and Penn Cambria.

“HIBster has allowed Penn Cambria School District to become proactive in our approach to bullying across all of our schools,” said Penn Cambria Superintendent William Marshall.  “Our administrative team is more aware of repeated offenders and bullying ‘hot spots’ in our buildings. We are also better prepared to monitor student behaviors as they move from school to school within our district.”

Earlier this year Marshall discussed his district’s experience with the program at a hearing held by Burns in Cambria County, where Burns hosted other local schools’ administrators. In addition to facilitating the program and finding funding for it, Burns has also proposed a series of bills to address bullying in schools.

“Bullying isn’t an issue that will be solved just through any single piece of legislation or any one program,” Burns said. “We need to be willing to try different things and work together to execute stronger anti-bullying efforts in all our schools.”