Committee edits policy rough draftA special committee appointed to draft an anti-bullying policy for Jamestown Public Schools worked out the kinks in a rough draft early Tuesday morning.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
A special committee appointed to draft an anti-bullying policy for Jamestown Public Schools worked out the kinks in a rough draft early Tuesday morning.
The rough draft is a policy that combines the policies from schools in Fargo and Broward County, Florida, said Bob Toso, Jamestown Public Schools superintendent.
“I’m sure by the time we’re done we’re going to have a pretty good mix,” Toso said.
Shelly Jystad, committee member, first took concern and wanted the words “systematically and chronically” removed from the definition of bullying.
“Our legal counsel is basically saying one act is too many,” Jystad said.
Greg Allen, School Board president, agreed that one act is too many.
“I think if it’s the first time we’d still take action,” Allen said. “... I think it should generate action if it’s reported.”
As of now the words will be taken out of the draft to present within the policy that even one instance is too much, Toso said.
Jean Delaney, concerned parent, wanted clarification on students who condone or support other acts of bullying — not those who do the bullying — listed in the definition as being subject to discipline.
“If you condone or tolerate bullying, that can be taken to quite an extreme,” Delaney said.
Allen said students who did condone or tolerate the bullying should also be disciplined, but not necessarily at the same level of those who do the bullying.
Rosemary McDougall, committee member, said the greatest deterrent to bullying is having a person step in between the act.
“I think it’s important for kids to know it’s OK to come forward if they do see something wrong,” McDougall said.
Allen said the wording in the policy differentiates between condoning an act of bulling and someone who is just a bystander. The definition was unchanged as of now.
Jystad was careful to not use the term “zero tolerance” when referring to discipline for incidents. She said a zero-tolerance policy could result in suspension for a first grader who brings a camping knife to school because he wants to use the fork attachment at lunch.
Toso said there is a discipline grid in the student handbook which breaks down what happens after each offense. He also said principals are aware of any incidents that happen repeatedly for each K-12 student through the use of a computer program called PowerSchool.
“You have to take consideration at different steps,” said Nellie Degen, community member.
Delaney also expressed concern with a section that said any staff member, student, school volunteer, parent/guardian or other person who reports an act of bullying in good faith is “immune from a cause of action for damages” resulting from the reporting or any failure to report the incident. She said “cause of action” usually means a civil suit, which is something the School Board could not prevent.
Toso said the immunity would be for things the board could control like, future employment, grades, learning or working environment and work assignments.
The section was agreed to be altered and the wording with “immune” was removed as of now.
The committee also agreed to model the forms for filing a complaint after the Fargo district. Toso said he would take care of that.
“They used this,” McDougall said while holding a form, “so I don’t think we need to reinvent the wheel in that.”
The committee also discussed what would be in the student handbook because the current draft is 11 pages long.
“To get this down to size we’d have to review it again before we bring it to the board,” Allen said of the entire policy.
Toso suggested having a few principals present for the student handbook section. He said they are responsible for what goes into the handbooks before giving them to the School Board for approval.
The next committee meeting will be at 7 a.m. Jan. 12 in the district office conference room.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org