NEWPORT, VT - Bullying and harassment of students are coming under greater scrutiny, says Orleans Essex North Supervisory Union Superintendent Dr. Robert Kerr at the recent North Country Union High School Board Meeting.
Responding in part to the school's disciplinary process for student offenses, Kerr noted that, under law, schools can be held liable if they do not report and intervene when a charge of bullying occurs.
The issue of bullying has been around for a long time, admitted administrator Bob Davis, “It's scary stuff - nasty, nasty stuff. Even if it happens outside of school hours, we still have to respond to it.”
Davis said there are different approaches to dealing with reports of bullying. Sometimes the parties are able to work out their differences with guidance from a mediator, but that is not always the appropriate solution, Davis advised the Board.
When a report of bullying occurs, a letter is sent home to the parents of the accused child along with a copy of the school's policy on bullying. That action will be recorded on the student's personal record.
Board member Richard Nelson brought up the issue of cyber bullying, in which students use the Internet to harass their peers. “Some of this bullying... I have no tolerance for, it's just blatantly bad. How is the school dealing with it?”
Davis responded by agreeing that there are times when you “put a kid in touch with an electronic device, it separates them from a social check in what you may text. It gets out of control.”
A school psychologist is one of several team members who are called upon to help resolve bullying or harassment issues. Any student or parent of a student who believes their child is being bullied can report the incident to any school administrator or faculty member, who is required to file a report to the principal and superintendent. All administrators and faculty members are mandated by law to report allegations of abuse.
In other news, Dr. Kerr stated that a mediation session to resolve contract issues with the teachers union has not yet been scheduled. A tentative date to begin mediation next week fell through when the federal mediator was unable to attend. A new date will be set in the near future.