District tightens bullying rules

Changes result in a full investigation, possible expulsion

Posted: Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Juneau School Board has approved a new policy that would result in a full investigation of any sort of bullying, with the possibility of expulsion for offenders.

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The new rules address a state law requiring schools to have a policy in place by July 1 prohibiting harassment, intimidation and bullying. The board adopted the policy unanimously Tuesday evening, late in its regular session.

The policy bars students, staff, parents and volunteers from bullying on all school district property, at bus stops, activities and functions.

Penalties also include termination for staff.

"It speaks to the seriousness of the school district and the seriousness of bullying by name-calling or physical," said Bernie Sorenson, principal of Juneau-Douglas High School. "I'm very supportive of the policy."

Schools are directed by the board to educate students and staff on the new policy.

In two incidents in late March, nine students were threatened in notes written on walls at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School. Three boys were arrested and questioned in the investigation.

"We don't know who did it," said Cindee Brown-Mills, spokeswoman for Juneau police. With no action coming of the threats, however, police now view the situation as a minor incident.

"At best it would be vandalism," Brown-Mills said.

Under the new anti-bullying policy, all threats, including those made last March, are to be investigated by the school principal.

As defined in the new policy, bullying is "a written, oral or physical act undertaken to threaten, hurt, intimidate, humiliate, harass or frighten a person."

Eric Fry, spokesman for the Department of Education, said the 2006 state law driving the new policy stems from a national conversation that bullying may contribute to major campus violence.

"It compels people to be on the lookout," Fry said.

The board heard testimony Tuesday from a student who said adults might not be as aware as they should be about what goes on in schools, board member Margo Waring said.

The information gathered by the new policy could be used to ferret out unknown effects of bullying, including Juneau's high dropout rate. People don't know to what extent bullying might contribute to the dropout rate, she said.

Next school year each school is required to document all confirmed incidents of bullying along with any action taken in response. The district will forward all incidents that result in suspension or expulsion to the state each November.



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