Bullies in Douglas County schools have been put on notice, as well as those people responsible for reporting acts of bullying.
School board members last week approved the first reading of changes to board and administratively policies collectively entitled, “Safe and Respectful Learning Environments.” The changes comply with new state laws that not only define bullying, including cyber-bullying, but mandate specific actions be taken in instances of bullying.
“The NRS has done what it intended to do — bring it to our awareness,” said Assistant Superintendent Lyn Gorrindo. “Administrators are aware of the importance of documenting it.”
“What distinguishes bullying from other forms of childhood aggression is unequal power,” reads the revised administrative regulation. “(Bullying) is intended to cause or actually causes the person to suffer harm or serious emotional distress.”
According to state law, this definition encompasses chronic teasing and ridicule, especially name-calling, physical assault against a person or property, threatening gestures or glances, social exclusion in school-related activities, and acts of sabotage, such as tampering with a student’s course work.
In the brave, new world of digital media, cyber-bullying means such behavior conducted using any electronic communication, whether email, text messaging, or social networking sites.
Per state law, the policy changes protect any student or employee who reports bullying.
“The school district prohibits retaliation against any employee or student because he or she has made a report of bullying, cyber-bullying, harassment, or intimidation, or because he or she has testified, assisted, or participated in the investigation of such a report,” reads the revised board policy.
The changes go a step further than protection, though. In the new administrative regulations, there’s a compulsory provision.
“Any school district employee who witnesses or receives a report, formal or informal, written or oral, that bullying, cyber-bullying, harassment, and/or intimidation has occurred at school, at a school-sponsored event, or on a school bus, shall report the incident(s) to the principal or the principal’s designee,” the regulation states. “The report of a violation must be made verbally to the principal or designee noted above on the day on which the employee witnessed the violation or received information regarding the occurrence of a violation.”
The provision also states that any intentional failure to report bullying “is a basis for which a teacher may be suspended, dismissed or not re-employed.”
On Tuesday, district staff members said they would present more specific data on bullying later this fall. They did say that overall incidents declined this last year.
Superintendent Lisa Noonan pointed to student-run programs, such as Safe School Ambassadors and Random Acts of Kindness, as contributing factors.
“All these efforts combined help us lower rates of inappropriate activity,” she said.