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New East Middle Principal Addresses Bullying Issues

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Binghamton's East Middle School has been facing criticism from parents who say their children are being bullied and the school's doing nothing about it. The issues came to a head at a board meeting earlier this week.

On Monday, Joyce Westgate will take the role of interim principal at the school. Westgate says that she plans to bring a supportive and optimistic attitude to the school.

The district appointed Westgate in the wake of the bullying concerns at East Middle. Along with announcing her appointment, district officials say will be implementing a number of changes to bring more structure to the school. The district says it will provide an update to the public in the coming weeks on the impact of those changes.

"I’ve always been up for a challenge. I’ve worked in buildings that had some concerns over the past many years. And I’ve always counted on the support of a wonderful teaching staff because not one of us is as good as all of us,” said Westgate.

Westgate says she supports the school's new initiatives including ID badges and hall passes used by all students, making sure all new teachers are up-to-date on the Olweus Anti-Bullying Program, and implementing a Restorative Justice Program. This Restorative Justice Program was presented in Tuesday's board meeting. Under this program, the incident of misbehavior is used as an educative opportunity for repairing its harm.

Broome County District Attorney Steve Cornwell says he'd like to get representatives from the Department of Social Services, Family Court, and school officials together to address some of the concerns at East Middle.

"My office wants to be involved in the schools, middle schools as well as the high schools. And the issues that are going on now are very serious, so we would like to be involved," said D.A. Cornwell.

Westgate says the school will be calling parents more often regarding situations, either good or bad, involving their children. Westgate replaces Lori Czeitner who resigned as principal in December. She will be interim principal until June 30th.

The District has also added one administrator per grade to monitor the students and campus.