by Jessyca Cardinell
The Board of Education publicly responded to the concerns and comments from parents and community members given at the previous BOE meeting held on Monday, February 11th.
Many had stepped up and stated how bullying was affecting their children and the concerns how these situations were being handled.
Board of Education, President David Fenlong, was able to shine some light on this issue, as well as the protocol the BOE follows upon hearing these voiced concerns at the BOE meeting held Monday, March 11.
“At the last meeting, we had several people here that brought up some issues on discipline, specifically bullying. As we stated earlier in the comment section, we typically do not answer questions, on occasion we may clarify if something is stated incorrectly. However, for the most part we will wait and collect our thoughts and everyone else's information before we respond.” said BOE President Fenlong
“At the heart of what it takes for our scholars to survive are support, respectful and trusting relationships. When students and staff feel safe, they are more willing to focus on learning from and with others and take academic risks. It is paramount that our parents, staff and students feel safe in this school, everyone is dedicated to safety and we have strict policies and procedures to both prevent and stop harassment or bullying. The District takes allegations seriously and it follows rigorous procedures to document and investigate all allegations. We also make sure we protect all scholars during those times of an investigation.” said President Fenlong, who went on to state what these situations need as an approach.
“We also need a holistic approach with overlapping efforts from the school and at home to achieve the results we desire. This is what this challenge will take, so please talk to everyone, talk to your neighbors, to your friends, parents, teachers, administration, but please use the chain of command. We can help sunset this problem together. Please, don't bash the school or bully in anyway that tarnishes you're own integrity. Our school staff spends a lot of time with children and peers and I have unequivocal support for educators and personnel. They get to see how everyone interacts together, they get to notice patterns and recognize classroom dynamics. They establish collaborative relationships with your teacher in school. That is as important as advocating for your child, as it helps them with educational questions and talks about concerns of social interaction that may actually involve the bully. I have the honor of working with many of our staff, both professionally and as a parent and I recognize those roles as monumental and I thank them endlessly for their services as a professional educator and all that entails. I also hold that role of the parent and guardian to that same degree.” said BOE President Fenlong
When it came to handling the problem, he was firm in his response, “As you can see there are no plans from anyone here to minimize the problem. We are all caring and respectful adults and at our meetings we hold the same respectful line. We want to show respect, while managing our emotions. This diverse group of people are also parents and volunteer because they genuinely care. They deal with a lot and like you have seen before most times cool heads and warm hearts make the best decisions. We also like to listen, as a good prerequisite for this position, a lot of times we listen more than we speak. As listening gives us data and sometimes our own thoughts and opinions are not enough. We listen to both sides and never assume, we don't interrupt and we limit responses and criticism. As criticism and defensiveness increase, listening decreases, so we focus on the job at hand, solutions to problems and we keep the emphasis on every scholar and what everyone needs to succeed.” said Mr. Fenlong, who went on to give the specifics of the Gouverneur Central BOE and the procedures and policies of the District.
It is the policy of the Gouverneur Central School District Board of Education to hear comments from the public during open session at the regular board meetings. However, these public comment periods are not meant to be a discussion and the role of the board members is to listen only not provide feedback. In some cases this means the board does not correct false statements or respond to allegations against school personnel or the board. When appropriate, the Superintendent or Board President may follow up with individuals to correct false information or hold a discussion at a later time.
Above all, Gouverneur Central School District strives to protect the safety and dignity of all scholars. The District abides by strict policy procedures when it comes to allegations or concerns of bullying, and all instances are thoroughly investigated.
When a school staff member is first notified of a possible bullying situation, the situation is immediately investigated within 24 hours. School staff may take complaints or reports from parents or other relatives, students or bystanders. These reports can be made in person, through a written message, email, or via phone call. Each and every report is documented according to NYS Law in the parent log, discipline referral or the completion of Dignity for all Students Act (DASA) form.
Each building has Board of Education appointed designees called DASA coordinators who are responsible for handling all reports of bullying.
The District uses the following definitions as outline in the Board Policy and the Student Code of Conduct:
1.Harassment: verbal threats, intimidation, or abuse that creates a hostile environment that substantially interferes with a student's educational performance, opportunities, or well-being or reasonably causes(or would be expected to cause)a student to fear for his/her safety.
2.Bullying: unwanted and aggressive behavior stemming from a perceived or real imbalance of power. Repeated over time, and the victim feels helpless to respond.
If a report is investigated through the proper channels and it is determined to NOT be a case of bullying or harassment, the District and school administration will work with those involved to reach a mutually agreeable solution to the problem.
“We will continue to educate parents, staff, administration and the board members to do this all together. Thank you for listening.” BOE President Fenlong said in closing.