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Boyne City Drafts New Bullying Laws

Joshua Sampson, Staff Writer
jsampson@boynegazette.com
(231) 222-2119

The Boyne City School Board of Education has recently gone over a draft they hope will be the new bullying policy for local schools.  The district is hoping to provide a safe and nurturing educational environment for all of its students, and by presenting the correct wording in the board’s books, they hope to be one step closer.[private]

“Bullying is not tolerated now and the board wants something to address it as a district,” said Peter Moss, Boyne City school’s superintendent.

The policy will be applicable to any activities around the school and on school property, it is also relevant to cases involving school sponsored activities.

“As much as we try intervention strategies, it still occurs even at the elementary level,” said Roger Coates, fourth grade teacher at Boyne City elementary school.

To be considered bullying, the action has to, “ … (be) directed at one or more students, substantially interfere with educational opportunities, benefits, or programs of one or more students, (and) adversely affect the ability of a student to participate in or benefit from the school district’s educational programs.”  If bullying should arise, according to the policy, the factors implicating a person would be deduced to motivations regarding, “ … any actual or perceived characteristic.”

These characteristics are defined as anything derogatory, including race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, or sexual orientation.

Bullying is defined by the board as, “ … a person willfully and repeatedly exercising power or control over another (student) with hostile or malicious intent.”

Bullying is comprised of physical, verbal, psychological harassment, or a combination of all three, and examples given by the policy are, “Hitting, kicking, spitting, pushing, pulling … extorting money, blocking or impeding student movement, unwelcome physical contact.”  Other detrimental factors viewed by the Boyne City School Board of Education include harassment, intimidation, sexual harassment, and menacing.

Menacing, as defined by the policy, is, “ … any act intended to place a school employee, student, or third party in fear of imminent, serious physical injury.”

“When you look at board policies, they are written pretty generally to allow the superintendent to use,” Moss said. “You never want to get too restrictive because there are a million different scenarios that could occur.”

Students may report concerns anonymously to a teacher or a counselor, who will be responsible for informing the administrator or board official of complaints; however, disciplinary action may not be taken solely on an anonymous report.  Bullying claims found to have validity will be dealt with promptly.

Disciplinary actions include expulsion for the student, discharge for employes, exclusion for parents, and removal of any official or a request to resign from the Board of Education.  The board also addressed the potential for retribution by stating prohibiting retaliation against any person who reports or files a complaint.

During the investigation of bullying claims, confidentiality will be maintained; however, during a proper investigation, some circumstances will necessitate the disclosure of names and allegations.  Coates said the most important deterrent for bullying may be talking about the problem with students.

“Taking a moment to address social skills, and what is okay to say is important,” he said. “We need to focus on the fact that we need to treat each other with respect.”

While the bullying policy is still in a tentative stage, plans have been made to discuss it at the next board meeting.  “It had its first reading and the board seems to be OK with it,” said Moss. “For the next month, if they have any proposed changes, they’ll get them to me.”[/private]

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