CRARYVILLE–With just a week left before classes begin, Wednesday, September 1 was “Superintendent’s Day” at the Taconic Hills campus, and the district used the occasion to roll out an anti-bulling program that has been in the planning stages over the summer.
The process included a speaker, Dr. “Bird” Birchak, who discussed the challenges of human relations in the educational process. Later, faculty and staff broke up into small groups to conduct workshops on the subject. The swiftness with which the school mounted the new program, which will be in use throughout the school, is one indication of how seriously administrators view the subject.
The program involves increased communication with students on the subject as well as anti-bullying training by staff members who themselves received training this summer in the Olweus Program’s method. The approach is meant to increase sensitivity to the act of bullying and to empower those who witness it–students, staff or teachers–to intervene in and report bullying when it occurs. Since bullying often occurs outside of the classroom, monitoring of buses, hallways and the cafeteria will be ramped up.
New language in the school’s code of conduct adopted at last week’s Board of Education meeting was also presented to staff. The new definitions add teeth to the school’s anti-bullying initiative by clarifying the meaning of bullying and clearly spelling out consequences in ways the district hopes will be useful to parents and educators.
Another aspect of the new code is a series of discipline “rubrics” or charts that detail actions and consequences for students who receive repeated referrals for bullying and acts of insubordination. The rubrics are designed both to help assess bad conduct and to ensure consistency of intervention across a range of cases.
The new code now includes a passage on “cyberbullying,” defined as “threatening, hazing, harassing students or school personnel over the phone or the Internet, using [on-line] message boards to convey threats, derogatory comments or post pornographic pictures of students or school personnel.” Even if the action is engaged in off campus, say school administrators, if it “endangers the health and safety of students or staff within the school or adversely affects the educational process,” the code allows the school to take action.
This year State Police will have an office at the school.