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NYC School System Plans New $8 Million Anti-Bullying Strategy

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A new anti-bullying strategy has been launched in New York City schools.

As CBS2's Ali Bauman reported, the city's Department of Education announced multimillion-dollar reforms Monday.

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Two months into the school year, bullying is top of mind for many parents.

"He always comes home complaining kids are asking him all kinds of questions and trying to bully him," said parent Joan Pope.

"We need all the help we can," said parent Cynthia Miller. "Everyone has to be aware that it's not right."

The DOE on Monday announced an $8 million plan for improving its anti-bullying programs, which have faced scrutiny since Matthew McCree, 15, was stabbed to death at his Bronx school in September. McCree's classmate, Abel Cedeno, admitted to murder charges and told police he had been bullied for months about his sexual orientation.

"According to national data, one in five of all students is bullied," Queens City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-25th) said at a hearing Monday. "But members of certain groups are disproportionately victimized."

The $8 million initiative includes an online bullying complaint portal, mental health training and community workshops, anti-bias training for school staff, and more protection for victims of bullying – including school transfers.

"Let's start addressing services and programming that our students have in New York City," said Upper Manhattan City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez (D-10th).

The city is also dedicating $1 million to student-run clubs, and providing emotional training for teachers at 300 schools with high bullying rates.

"The most important thing in changing people's behavior is not machines, but people internally understanding what they do and why they shouldn't do it, or what they should do," said schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.

The chancellor says ultimately, conversations about bullying need to start at home – and it is up to parents to ask questions.

"How do we help parents feel comfortable to talk about these issues -- so not only if their children are being bullied, but so their children don't become the bulliers?" Fariña said.

"Talk to me. talk to your teachers. Don't keep it in," said parent Mercees Pablos. "Just talk."

The new initiatives will not take effect until next year at the earliest, but the family discussions can start right now.

The DOE also plans to publicly report the total number of substantiated incidents of student-to-student bullying, harassment or discrimination.

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