School Board adopts policy to deal with bullying in schools

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The Switzerland County School Board addressed the problem of bullying in the school system on Monday night, adopting a policy on bullying both on and off of school property.

The policy states:

• This rule applies when a student is:

— On school grounds immediately before or during school hours, immediately after school hours, or at any other time when the school is being used by a school group (including summer school).

— Off school grounds at a school activity, function, or event.

— Traveling to or from school or a school activity, function, or event.

— Using property or equipment provided by the school.

• Bullying by a student or groups of students against another student with the intent to harass, ridicule, humiliate, intimidate, or harm the other student through overt, repeated acts or gestures, including verbal or written communications transmitted, and/or physical acts committed, or any other similar behavior is prohibited.

• Parents or students who suspect that repeated acts of bullying are taking place should report the matter to the school principal or designee. School personnel will investigate all reports of bullying.

• Counseling, corrective discipline, and/or referral to law enforcement will be used to change the behavior of the perpetrator. This includes appropriate intervention, restoration of a positive climate and support for victims and others impacted by the violation.

• Educational outreach and training will be provided to school personnel, parents, and students concerning the identification, prevention, and intervention in bullying.

• All schools in the corporation are encouraged to engage students, staff, and parents in meaningful discussions about the negative aspects of bullying. The parent involvement may be through parent organizations already in place in each school.

The policy was passed unanimously by the school board.

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The school board also held a discussion about retaining consultant Marv Liberson for the coming year.

School board member Bill Roberts moved not to renew Marv Liberson’s contract; and that was seconded by Andy Truitt.

During discussion on the motion, some school board members wondered what the options were.

“It seems to me, he’s providing a service, so if he’s not renewed, who’s going to fill that void?” school board member Jim Phipps said.

Superintendent Tracy Caddell was not at Monday’s meeting due to a family illness, so assistant superintendent Darin Gullion conducted the meeting.

“Mr. Caddell said that most school corporations that aren’t using consultants are going to law firms and attorneys to handle those matters,” Darin Gullion said. “How those situations are handled vary by school corporation.”

“So, when you spoke with the superintendent, is it his recommendation not to renew this contract?” Jim Phipps asked.

“No,” Darin Gullion said. “It’s the superintendent’s recommendation to continue this contract. I’m just telling you what other school corporations are doing as an alternative.”

“Well, I think we could spend $15,000 (the amount of Marv Liberson’s annual contract) in other ways,” Bill Roberts said.

“Yes,” board president Jack Ranz said. “We’ll spend that — and more — on legal fees.”

Board member Duane Cole said that he was a part of the negotiations team this past year, and that they consulted with Marv Liberson about various questions concerning the language of the contract. He speculated that consulting a law firm on those matters would result in spending even more school funds.

After more discussion, Jack Ranz called for a vote on the motion not to renew; and Bill Roberts, Andy Truitt, and Laurice See voted for the motion.

The motion was killed when Jack Ranz, Jim Phipps, Wilma Swango, and Duane Cole voted to retain Marv Liberson.

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In other matters discussed by the school board:

— The board unanimously approved increasing the school corporation’s contribution to the insurance of non-certified school employees by 7.5-percent.

— Two requests to the Switzerland County Endowment Corporation were tabled until the next meeting.

— A $1,000 grant for the AP Environmental Science class was accepted.

— The mid-term graduation of senior Mindy Fugate was approved.

— Memorandums of Understanding with the Switzerland County Health Department were approved.

— Debbie Seaver and Greg Deaton were approved as the sponsors for the newly created “Business Professionals of America” club.

— Professional leaves and use of facility requests were approved as presented.

— The school board will hold an open, working session on Monday, December 5th to discuss planning facilities projects; including a roof on Switzerland County Elementary School, a new master plan for transportation drop off/pick up at the high school, middle school, and Jefferson-Craig; possible removal of the portable classrooms; and problems with the administration building.