If students don’t know it by now, they will become fully aware of the state’s new laws about harassment, intimidation and bullying when school starts back in the fall.
And they should be aware. What they don't know could hurt them or land them trouble and not just with their teachers and principals, but with the district and with law enforcement as well.
Until now, some students may have thought that they couldaway with saying and doing just about anything they wanted, especially on the phone or online, but not anymore. If they say something cruel or intimidating to another student either in person or through electronic communication – whether it happens on school property or after-hours – school officials will and must act.
The Board of Education -- upon second reading of the district’s policy regarding harassment, intimidation and bullying on Tuesday night -- approved the district’s new policy, which follows the state law and makes it mandatory to report such acts. If a principal or the superintendent does not conduct an investigation into the allegations, they will be subject to disciplinary measures.
During the second reading, Board Member Lise Chapman questioned whether someone who witnesses harassment, intimidation, bullying outside of school will actually tell the school.
“Good luck,” she said.
Other board members agreed that it seems to be asking a lot to get people to come forward regarding incidents outside of school but Superintendent Dr. James Crisfield said that the administration is working on putting “things in place to make people feel comfortable to report it.”
In addition, he said, knowing that behavior whether in person or on electronic devices will be investigated and analyzed maybe deter the behavior in the first place.
“Why take the risk?” he said.
The district will also help the targets of abuse feel more comfortable reporting it.
The consequences for violating the policy will vary depending on the circumstances, the severity of the behavior and degree of harm to the target of the bullying. It can be dealt with at the school or district level but law enforcement may be contacted. Those who engage in harassment, intimidation or bullying could be suspended, expelled, enrolled in a program, placed in therapy or referred to law enforcement.
The district will hire a Anti-Bullying Coordinator and appoint an Anti-Bullying Specialist at each school, where there will also be a School Safety Team.
In related policies also approved on Tuesday, the board:
- Voted in favor of “School Violence Awareness Week” during October of each year, which will be observed with activities to prevent school violence such as pupil discussions about conflict resolution and issues of pupil diversity and tolerance. The district will invite law enforcement officers to join teachers in the discussions and provide programs for school employees that are designed to help them recognize warning signs of school violence and to instruct them on recommended conduct during an incident of school violence.
- Approved a policy that mandates all school district employees to report acts of school violence and student drug use. School officials will report them to the state Department of Education, which grades each district on how it handles such complaints.
- Approved a policy that ensures training for teachers in suicide prevention and recognizing the warning signs of a pupil who is contemplating self destruction or harm.
For more news out of the meeting check back later today.