School board OKs anti-bullying policy

Article Published: Nov. 12, 2009 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011

The Watauga County Board of Education approved an anti-bullying policy Monday night.

The board reviewed several policies during its regular monthly meeting, including the second readings for the anti-bullying, harassment and discrimination policies and the high school attendance policy. The revision for the anti-bullying policy defines bullying and harassment as "any pattern of gestures or written, electronic, or verbal communications, or any physical act or any threatening communication" on school property or during school events that cause reasonable fear of harm.

The definition also includes any perceived harassment motivated by "differentiating characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, socioeconomic status, academic status, gender identity, physical appearance, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, developmental, or sensory disability, or by association with a person who has or is perceived to have one or more of these characteristics."

Reported violations require prompt investigation, with each school principal responsible for disciplinary action and documenting verified acts.

The harassment policy grew out of a General Assembly law adopted in this year's legislative session.

The policy was approved unanimously.

The board approved first readings of a code of ethics for board of education members, instructional program policies including field-trip notifications, and integrated pest management to reduce use of potentially harmful pesticides. The board approved an energy conservation policy by waiving a second reading.

Mike Kesterson, Barnhill/Vannoy project manager for the new high school, said the school was 78 percent complete, with zero accidents reported. The project is 23 days ahead of schedule and has an expected opening date of August 2010.

The board got a draft of next year's proposed calendar. First day for students is Aug. 11, 2010, with Aug. 5 scheduled as an optional work day for teachers. The last day for students is scheduled for May 19, 2011.

"It is very similar to this year's calendar," said assistant superintendent Billie Hicklin, head of the calendar committee. The board unanimously approved the calendar.

Schools superintendent Marty Hemric noted that school would be closed for Veterans Day on Nov. 11, with Thanksgiving holidays from Nov. 25 through 27.

Cindy Brown, positive support coordinator for the school system, reported that three schools had completed training for the Positive Support Initiative. Green Valley and Parkway elementary schools have achieved "exemplar" status, matched by only 138 other schools in the state and denoting five years in the program. Watauga High School has been selected as a "model" site, one of three high schools in North Carolina. Blowing Rock Elementary is in the final stages of completing its positive-support program.

During the public-comment period, Brown and Bethany Reynolds talked about the positive aspects, leadership skills and success of the high school volleyball program. "They were class acts," Brown said, hoping a volleyball intramural program can be added.

Ann Marie Yates said she had a child who was cut from the volleyball program and suggested there were "behind-the-scenes" problems with high school sports programs.

Board member Steve Combs said he was concerned about students losing spots on the team after they had worked at a sport for years. "I want to make sure everyone is treated in a fair way," he said.

School board chair Lowell Younce said board members had heard concerns and asked administrators to review them. He said the board couldn't monitor playing time or team rosters.
He said the ultimate goal of the school system was to create successful, well-rounded students, and said coaches should pursue success "in a fair, impartial manner."

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