Ray Azar, director of student services, discussed enacting a tougher policy for the ongoing bullying problems during the Vigo County School Corporation board meeting Monday.
He addressed the different stages of bullying ranging from preventative, responsive and “bully bashing.”
A plan is put in place once the case is substantiated to stop the bullying, which is the responsive level.
In stubborn instances, Azar said that is when the “bully bashing” trained personnel above the building level step in to help resolve the problem. Officials will meet with school staff, parents and students involved.
“After the session I think students will understand that bullying has to stop,” Azar said, explaining that the administration prefers bullying to be resolved at the building level whenever possible, but will get the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department involved if needed.
Bullying is prohibited in all schools. According to the policy, bullying is defined as “any act that is repeated or chronic and of a threatening or intimidating nature with the intent to harass, ridicule, humiliate, intimidate or harm another student.” The instances can pertain to technology, including cyber bullying, using social media and cell phones and computers.
A recent study ranks Indiana third in the nation on bullying.The proposed updated policy is an effort for the district to meet state law requirements for tracking and investigating reported instances of each case within five days.
“However, some cases are so complex or the witnesses so many, that the timeline needs some flexibility and we tried to put some of that in the policy. In all cases we’d expect a report in a five day period, but we may not have a resolution to the problem until later.”
Each elementary school participates in No Bullies Clubs and Azar noted that each school has its own “Bully Box” in which anyone can report bullying at the building locations or on the school website. The reports are investigated at the building level.
“I am sure that you have heard about the HERO (Helping Everyone Respect Others) plan in our schools. It emphasizes good role models and involves students from kindergarten through high school,” he said, adding that last year every student was given state mandated bullying lessons. VCSC Staff are required to complete in-services based on the state law.
The third and final reading of the anti-bullying policy will take place during the BOE meeting on Aug. 25.
For more information on bullying and how to report an instance, see vigoschools.org
The board took action on the following:
- The board approved advertising for the 2015 General Fund, Debt Service Fund and School Transportation fund budgets and tax levies on Aug. 13 and Aug. 20 and to provide notice of a public hearing. The $113.2 million general fund budgeting reflects costs for the Affordable Care Act and a textbook rental fee shortfall of $380,000; Chief Financial Officer Donna Wilson said the transportation budget allows for replacing up to 17 buses. The budget will be available for review at the next BOE meeting.
- The board approved personnel recommendations from Director of Human Resources Mick Newport; Approved employee benefits insurance proposals and PPO plan. The plans provide the same coverage and access to the same network, with two additional plans meeting the Affordable Care Act compliance guidelines.
- The board approved appointing Kathryn Utley to the Vigo County Public Library Board.
- The board approved elementary, middle and high school student handbooks updates.
In other meeting news:
- A spokesman from Citizens of Action (COA,) Rev.Dwayne Malone, said the organization is concerned about the “resistance of this board and administration to collectively discuss the issues that plague our poor and minority students in the Vigo County School Corporation.”
Malone said he is concerned about the number of black students suspended and expelled at a higher rate than their peers. Also, he noted that the number of black students placed in Special Education classes who possibly have behavioral problems.
“All we’re seeking is information,” Malone said.
Board member Mel Burks urged the administration to follow up with COA complaints. Superintendent Danny Tanoos agreed, indicating he’d met in the past with individuals regarding similar issues.
- Resident Kevin Southwood approached the board regarding his concerns about Sarah Scott Middle School’s failing grade on the state report card and the topic of bullying in schools