The is expected tonight to alter its relatively new bullying policy due to recent changes in state law.
Board members initially discussed the changes to meet requirements of Matt's Safe School Law, which passed the State Legislature late last year, at their May 3 meeting. A public hearing was scheduled at that time to satisfy a component of the new law, which is named after Matt Epling, a freshman from East Lansing who killed himself in 2002 after being bullied.
No citizens spoke at the public hearing, but can address the issue at tonight's meeting that begins at 7 p.m. at the Doyle Center for Professional Development.
The district adopted its existing policy in 2007, however it does not account for factors incorporated in the new state law. Many have to do with rapid changes in technology and how it's added another layer of impact to bullying that wasn't considered just a few years ago.
"Our technology has allowed bullying to really expand," said Christine Barnett, assistant superintendent for human resources and labor relations. She was referencing the use of smartphones, email, texts and social media Websites and to bully others.
Barnett said other new requirements include:
- A statement prohibiting bullying.
- A state regarding retaliation for bullying and making false accusations about bullying.
- Notification of the parents or legal guardian of both the victim and alleged perpetrator in any bullying incident.
- Implementation of a procedure to document and report all bullying incidents to the board annually.
- Defines 'at school' as any school building, bus or building event. It also includes telecommunications devices if the device is owned by district. For example, use of district-owned iPads or systems that use a district Internet provider for the purposes of bullying.
Board Trustee Robert Herner raised concerns about consistent enforcement and said the new policy does provide some "gray area" as far as determining punishments.
Barnett said that the primary changes have to do with documentation and that the consequences of bullying, when determined, will depend on the severity of the situation.
She said she believed bullying was no more prevalent in BHS buildings than other districts in the area, but administrators know it exists.
Trustee Ed Ford said the emphasis should be on getting the problem resolved.
"I'm more concerned about getting it to stop, even if you have to document 150 incidents," he said, using an arbitrary number. "We need to stand tall against bullying and do what we need to do to get it to stop."
State law requires each district to approve and implement the new policy by June 6.
Also on the agenda:
- The board will consider a resolution to redesignate funds from the Co-Curricular Fund to the Capital Improvement Fund.
- A report on the Fall 2011 MEAP results.
- An update on the high school transition plan.
- Principal's instructional showcase, featuring Andover High School's Rob Durecka.