Lansing school district policy committee revises bullying policy

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By Devyne Lloyd
Lansing Star staff reporter

When it comes to bullying in the Lansing School District, the parents are more of a concern than their children: “Parents bring in their kids and say ‘Show me where it says they can’t do that,’” Myra Ford, secretary of the district’s policy committee, said during the committee’s July 11 meeting.

Although the current definition in the manual has not been changed since children started bringing cell phones to school, the policy committee said the wording needed to be changed because of parents trying to fight disciplinary action taken against their children when caught bullying.

In an effort to protect the health and safety of their students, the Lansing school district policy committee decided to make a few changes to the bullying policy in the 2011-2012 Student Code of Conduct manual.

The 2009-2010 Student Code of Conduct manual defines bullying as “The repeated intimidation of others by the real or threatened infliction of physical, verbal, written, electronically submitted, or emotional abuse, or through attacks on the property of another.”

On November 18th, 2010, revisions to the current bullying policy were approved by the committee. Those changes included broadening the definition of ‘harassment or bullying  that includes:

·        Written threats 

·         Verbal

·       Graphic

·       Physical attacks

Electronically transmitted acts, such as sexting or cyber-bullying via internet, cell phone, or any electronic communication device) can also be considered “harassing or bullying,”  if it’s determined that the act was motivated either by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as : Race, color, religion,ancestry, national origin or gender. It also includes sexual orientation,  gender identity and expression; a mental, physical, or sensory disability or impairment; or by any other distinguishing characteristic.”

The committee also discussed who teachers, staff and bus drivers are to report to if they witness an act of bullying, whether it is a student bullying another student or a staff member bullying a student. According to the November 18 revisions, staff is required to report bullying incidents to the principal, who is required to report it to the Superintendent:

“The Lansing School District board of education requires the principal and/or the principal’s designee at each school to be responsible for receiving complaints alleging violations of this policy. All school employees are required to report alleged violations of this policy to the principal or the principal’s designee. All principals or principal’s designees are required to report alleged violations of this policy to the District superintendent or the superintendent’s designee. The superintendent shall make a monthly report on alleged violations and responses and/or actions the school board”.

At the July 11 meeting, the committee discussed the possibility of adding the school board to the chain of command. Incident report forms will be made available to staff in order for the council to take action. “It’s not just the responsibility of the principal,” said Ford.

By changing the wording of the policy and adding the council to the disciplinary process, the committee hopes to teach children respect, curb mischief through the presence of adults, and teach the rules. The committee also aims to regain the trust of the parents by teaching children to follow the rules, whether they are similar to the rules at home or not.

In order to prepare the school staff and parents to implement the new policies, the possibilities of posters, staff memos, letters to parents, and training sessions were discussed. “We need to be sensitive to the needs of the children,” said Ford.

Due to the absence of the majority of the committee members, the newer revisions will not be voted on until the next policy committee meeting, scheduled for August 1, 2011.

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