School Board to make final vote on bullying policy
Bullying fellow students isn’t quite what it used to be.
For that reason, the Franklin County School Board is amending its policy on student discrimination/harassment and bullying/intimidation to focus more on curbing a newer style of picking on students that occurs through social media.
The board will vote the second and final time on the policy when it meets at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the system’s administration building, 215 S. College St., Winchester.
Sgt. Chris Guess, public information officer for the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and a school board member, summed up his thoughts on the issue.
“It’s incumbent upon us as school board members who govern the school system to have provisions and policies in place to deal with the bullying issues,” he said Wednesday. “Nobody will probably ever write the perfect policy, but we’ve got to have a policy in place because of how things are today.”
About bullying, the policy says: “Students shall be provided a safe learning environment. It shall be a violation of this policy for any student to bully, intimidate or create a hostile educational environment for another student.
“Bullying and intimidation are defined as either physically harming a student or damaging his/her property, or knowingly placing the student in reasonable fear of such, or creating a hostile educational environment.”
Bullying and harassment incidences are required to be reported and any allegations shall be fully investigated by a complaint manager, according to the policy.
If there’s a substantiated charge against an employee, the resulting action shall include disciplinary measures “up to and including termination.”
With students who bully, a substantiated charge may result in corrective or disciplinary action up to and including suspension.
The policy also addresses “discrimination/harassment” and says such actions will not be tolerated.
Discrimination/harassment is defined as conduct, advances, gestures or words either written or spoken of a sexual, racial, ethnic or religious nature which:
- · Unreasonably interfere with the student’s work or educational opportunities.
- · Create an intimidating, hostile or offensive learning environment; or
- · Imply the submission to such conduct is made an explicit or implicit term of receiving grades or credit; or
- · Imply that submission to or rejection of such conduct will be used as a basis for determining the student’s grades and/or participation in student activity.
Guess said that through Nov. 16, 34 cases had been reported in the school system throughout 2013.
That was a huge increase compared to the 13 that had occurred the year before.
School officials said that most of the cases took place between older students.
“The majority was at the middle and high school levels,” Director of Schools Dr. Rebecca Sharber said recently.
Even though other school systems in the state do have more frequent cases, Sharber also mentioned it’s disheartening that bullying goes on in Franklin County Schools at all.
“I think any number of bullying cases is of concern,” she said. “However, the number of bullying cases quoted (for the state) was .5 percent of the student population. For us, it was .2 percent of the population.”
Just as Franklin County Sheriff Tim Fuller mentioned regarding the state’s recent statistics on bullying, Sharber reiterated that most of the harassment that goes on between students occurs through social media or text messaging.
“Based on what we hear in court, the majority appears to by cyber bullying,” she said. “Internet and cell phones provide students autonomy that is not monitored.”
But the school system is taking different approaches to prevent bullying with the schools, and several anti-bullying programs are being implemented at the middle and high schools.
“We are working on bullying prevention more through positive behavior programs, our counseling programs and through our Olweus bullying programs,” Sharber said.