District cracks down on cyber bullies

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At the April 14 South-Western City School Board of Education meeting, members set a new harassment, intimidation and bullying policy into place.

The board defines harassment, intimidation or bullying as “any intentional written, verbal or physical act that a student exhibits toward another particular student more than once, that causes mental or physical harm and is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive that it creates an intimidating threatening or abusive educational environment.”

Included in the policy is a new form of harassment called cyber bullying.

“All school boards have to adopt a harassment policy, ours was just revised to include this form,” said Sandra Nekoloff, the district’s executive director of communication.

Cyber bullying is defined as a child, preteen or teen that is tormented, harassed, embarrassed, or otherwise targeted by other children, preteens or teens using the Internet, interactive or digital technologies or mobile phones.

“The changes to the policy were made to be more inclusive as technology changes,” said Superintendent Dr. Bill Wise. “When I was in school, bullying would have been a threatening note. There was no such thing as threatening text messages.”

According to the Ohio Department of Education web site, the prohibited behaviors regarding cyber bullying are:

•Posting slurs on Web sites where students congregate, or on Web blogs, which are on-line journals

•Sending abusive or threatening instant messages

•Using camera phones to take embarrassing photos of students and posting them online

•Using Web sites to circulate gossip and rumors

•Excluding others from online groups by falsely reporting them for inappropriate language to Internet service providers

In recent years, schools that would try to get involved with the actions that took place off-campus or outside of school hours would often be sued for exceeding their authority and violating the student’s free speech rights.

By adding provisions to the school’s acceptable use policy, they reserve the right to discipline the students for actions taken off-campus if they are intended to have an effect on a student or they are adversely affecting the safety and well-being of students while in school. That provision makes it a contractual rule, not a constitutional rule.

“I have to commend the policy committee,” said board member Randy Reisling. “Ours is very clean and concise compared to other districts. It is very thorough.”

If a student is found to be harassing, intimidating or bullying another student, he or she could be disciplined by either suspension or expulsion. 

Additional information can be found on the district Web site, www.swcs.us or on the Ohio Department of Education Web site, www.ode.state.oh.us.

Awarding contracts

The board passed a resolution awarding contracts to Center City International and Edwin H. Davis for the purchase of additional school buses.

“The old buses have lots of miles on them, and because they are older they become very expensive, not only to repair, but to operate,” said South-Western City School Business Manager Scott Deubner.

The district determined six 84-passenger buses and five 54-passenger buses with lifts for special needs students are required to add to their fleet.

Edwin H. Davis will provide the district with the six 84-passenger buses valued at $78,025 per bus and Center City International will provide the five 54-passenger buses with lifts at $79,320 per bus.

In total, the district will spend $864,750 on the eleven additional buses.

School Bell Awards

School Bell Awards are presented to district employees based on letters of commendation written by members of the community. Here is a list of the employees receiving School Bell Awards at the April 14 meeting:

•From Stiles Elementary – principal Joe Jude; first grade teacher Christy Murray; second grade teacher Shelley Luchene and physical education teacher Brady Ruthers.

•From North Franklin Elementary School – LD intervention specialist Janine Conway

•From Central Crossing High School – work study coordinator Sherry Clark

•From Franklin Heights High School – NJROTC instructor Captain Tom Lennon

•From the Transportation Department – bus driver Kelly Verne and bus aide Bev Neff

These employees are recognized for surpassing their job responsibilities and are eligible for the district’s Above and Beyond the Call of Duty Award presented at the end of each year.

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