A new state regulation may leave playground bullies looking for a new source of lunch money. According to Jim Smith, superintendent of Bethel-Tate Schools, a recent state mandate is providing for a mandatory approach to combating school bullies and other forms of intimidation in schools.
“It’s a policy prohibiting harassment, intimidation and bullying,” said Smith. “Everything in the policy is geared towards that. There is a reporting procedure that is required by the state. We have an administrative response to how we handle complaints that come our way, and there are preventative measures to treat or identify this when it happens. There is a requirement to report incidents to the state and the board.”
According to Smith, each district in the state is required to pass a plan or policy that is aimed at stopping students from bullying other students. The Bethel-Tate plan, although adopted, is still being tweaked. The current policy speaks out against bullying, but still lacks specifics on how to address the issue.
“The board has adopted this, and we need to work out how we want to handle it,” said Smith. “We have a behavior reporting form with levels of progressive discipline, but we want to see how we want to do it. In our haste to get it passed, it needed to be done in December, we knew we’d have to work on it more in January.”
"This can lead to varying degrees of discipline," said Smith. "We want to look at discipline, because we don't want to get caught in it. Sometimes, kids just want to get out of school, so if you suspend them, you give them what they want. Sometimes you want flexibility in the discipline."
The current policy allows that any incident of bullying must be reported to school officials, who pass that information along to the school district administration. That information, according to state policy, must then be passed on to both the state, and to the district residents. Results will be posted on the school district's website.
"There's a requirement in here where you have to post a summary of the incident on the school's website," said Smith. "This is all districts, not just us. I think we'll have this up and running in a month, and we'll probably be training our staff in this for the next six months."