How Haywood deals with bullying
Bullying is something Haywood County Schools has dealt with for some time and something the schools take seriously.
The Mountaineer published story March 13 about several students who have been the victims of bullying. Since then, the issue has been examined further to find out what the school’s policies entail to let parents and students know the steps that should be taken when bullying occurs.
Superintendent Anne Garrett supplied The Mountaineer with an eight-page school policy on March 20 entitled “Prohibition Against Discrimination, Harassment and Bullying.”
According to the document, the policy was adopted by the board of education on Jan. 20, 1992 and was last revised Dec. 14, 2009.
Bullying not tolerated
Any violation of the policy is considered a serious violation and appropriate action will be taken in response.
“The board commits itself to nondiscrimination in all its educational and employment activities,” the policy states. “The board expressively prohibits unlawful discrimination, harassment or bullying, including on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, religion, age, marital status, parenthood, citizenship status, or disability.”
The policy also prohibits retaliation against an employee or student who has exercised their rights, including their right to report policy violations. The policy applies in every school building before, during and after school hours, on the school bus or at a bus stop, during any school function, extracurricular or other events subject to the authority of school personnel or any time or place when the behavior has a direct and immediate effect on maintaining order and discipline in the schools.
How to file a complaint
The policy defines the terms of discrimination, harassment, bullying, accused, complainant and hostile environment and outlines a specific process for reporting student complaints.
A complaint should be filed as soon as possible but no longer than 30 days after discovery of the facts. If a complaint is submitted after 30 days, the superintendent will determine whether the complaint will be investigated after considering several the reasons for the delay, extent of delay and the effect of the delay on the school district to investigate.
“Schools and parents should recognize the that delays in reporting may significantly impair the ability of the school district to investigate and respond effectively to such complaints,” the policy states.
Complaints may be reported to a principal, assistant principal, the human resource director or the Title IX coordinator.
A complaint does not have to be reported by a student for the school to trigger an investigation. Any employee who has reason to believe a student is being harassed, discriminated against or bullied “will notify the principal immediately unless the principal is the accused party.”
Any employee who fails to report a possible violation may be subject to disciplinary action.
The policy states that a designated investigator (a principal, assistant principal, the human resource director or the Title IX coordinator or another designated school official) will “impartially, promptly and thoroughly investigate the complaint” by separately interviewing the involved parties. The investigator will consider all factual information, the context of the incident, the age and maturity of the complainant and the alleged violator if he or she is a student.
The investigator will complete s written summary report of his or her findings and will notify the complainant of the results within 15 days of receiving the complaint unless additional time is needed. The report will state whether the complaint was substantiated and whether the alleged offender violated law or board policy.
If the investigator determines a violation occurred, the report will specify “reasonable, timely, age-appropriate effective corrective action…”
The student may appeal the decision if he or she is not satisfied with the findings. The policy also includes specifics on the appeal process.
According to the policy, students found in violation to the policy will be subject to disciplinary action found in Policy SA-1 and in the schools’ code of student conduct. School officials will consider relevant factors like severity of incident, age of students, prior discipline history of violator when determining whether additional sanctions will be imposed. Those additional sanctions may include a behavior assessment conducted by a licensed mental health professional, required counseling and removal from school until the assessment/counseling is completed. The cost of those services is the responsibility of the parent or guardian.
The middle schools and high schools both have code of conduct policy that outlines the specific offense and the consequence for that policy violation. According to the middle school code, students will receive one to three days of in-school suspension for a bullying violation, three-to five days of ISS for the second offense and one to five days of out-school suspension for the third offense.
Pisgah High School’s code states that students will receive one to three days ISS for harassment or intimidating acts and offenses after that are at the principal’s discretion.
Tuscola High School a first offense can result in detention and contact will be made with parents. The second offense can result in one to four days of ISS or OSS and a third offense can result in up to four days of OSS.
Each school should have its code of conduct policy posted on its website. For more information, the complete policy can be seen at http://www.haywood.k12.nc.us/board-of-education/school-board-policies/administration/.