Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Bully Police USA

Bully Police USA is making a difference. After talking to Les Shields, a School Board Member in Iowa, about a sexual orientation clause, which I oppose, he made a motion to create an anti bullying policy from Kennewick WA, which is posted on the website.

Here is the first message:

Mrs. High,
Thank you for taking the time to call and provide your insight into the issue in Clinton, Iowa to include the words sexual orientation in our school district discrimination policies. I'm sorry that I was not at home to speak to you personally, however my wife Joanne took excellent notes of your conversation. I have spent considerable time researching your web site and the links therein.
As an interesting aside, in a letter dated Sept. 28th, the Iowa Association of School Boards announced to all Iowa districts that they were refusing to take action on a recommendation to include sexual orientation as a separate and unique protected class. The Association position was that bullying, harassment, intimidation, and discrimination against any student should be prohibited.
I thought you might be interested to see where your comments and advice has taken me in this debate. Comments and insights from your web site are liberally included and annotated. The policy I will propose is from the Kennewick, Washington School District as posted on your web site. Below is a cut and paste of my prepared comments for the next School Board meeting. That meeting is tonight, Monday 10/11/2004 at 7:00 PM CDT. I will let you know how this turns out.
Les Shields, Board Member
Clinton Community School District

One of the basic concepts of a representative democracy is that we elect people to public office to represent our majority opinions. That being the case, the comments I have received over the last couple of weeks are running about 30 to 1 in support of my opinion. One can only hope that the rest of the Board has heard from many of our constituents just like I have, and more importantly, that we have listened to them.
Our Administrative staff needs policies from this Board that clearly describes acts of discrimination, bullying, harassment, and intimidation that our District will not condone. This does not require a new category of victim. There is no valid reason why a particular group needs to be identified before we can protect them from discrimination, bullying, harassment, and intimidation. I want these protections for all of our students. I had hoped this Board's action last year in approving an anti-bullying policy, as recommended by the national Safe Schools Initiative, was instructive in this area. As you may recall, the Safe Schools Initiative was the result of a study about school violence all over the country, most notably the Columbine High School incident. Following is a short summary of just a few of those incidents which prompted the Safe Schools Initiative.
School shooters: Secret service findings
October 15, 2000
Chicago Sun-Times
James Alan Kearbey, 14, Goddard, Kan., Jan. 21, 1985. Killed the principal and three others in his junior high school. Said he was bullied and beaten by students for years.
Nathan Faris,12, DeKalb, Mo., March 2, 1987. Teased about his chubbiness, Nathan shot a classmate, then shot himself to death.
Toby Sincino, 16, Blackville, S.C., Oct. 12, 1995. Toby was picked on by students. A week before the shooting, he had been suspended for making an obscene gesture. He shot and wounded a math teacher, killed another math teacher, then killed himself. (Personal research revealed the bullying was because of his height – less than 5 feet tall)
Barry Loukaitis,14, Moses Lake, Wash., Feb. 2, 1996. Walked into algebra class with a hunting rifle, two handguns and 78 rounds of ammunition. Killed the teacher and two students, wounded a third. One of the students killed had teased him. (Barry: "Some day people are going to regret teasing me.")
Joseph "Colt" Todd,14, Stamps, Ark., Dec. 15, 1997. Shot two students. Said he was humiliated by teasing.
Eric Harris,17, and Dylan Klebold, 18, near Littleton, Colo., April 20, 1999. The pair killed 12 students and one teacher, wounded 23 students, and killed themselves.
"I just remember life not being much fun," a shooter recalls. "Reject, retard, loser. I remember `stick boy' a lot, 'cause I was so thin."
(End of Chicago Sun Times reference)
(These six incidents total 24 dead and 28 wounded)
None of these incidents were about race, color, gender, marital status, national origin, religion, disability, or sexual orientation. So you see, the proposal before us tonight does nothing to end the discrimination, serious bullying, harassment, and intimidation issues in our schools like what happened in the incidents I summarized here. Unfortunately, there are many more incidents like these, but not enough time in this meeting to summarize them all. It has been the statement of several Board Members that this debate is about creating a safe learning environment for ALL of our students. I would also like to publicly state that I stand with you on that issue. But the proposed policy amendment before us tonight does not accomplish that goal. What does accomplish a safe learning environment for ALL of our students is a stronger policy, with clearer definitions and procedures for addressing discrimination, bullying, harassment, and intimidation against any student and for any reason.
This debate in Clinton, Iowa has been heard coast to coast. The Clinton Herald website has a Reader's Comment from Massachusetts that attacks my earlier comments on this issue. On the other side of the U.S., I have heard from a woman in the state of Washington who supported my comments, and whose teenage son committed suicide in 1998 because of bullying at school. This woman has taken on the cause of stopping bullying, and on her website are posted several model anti-bullying policies. I will be presenting a model policy to the community and this Board tonight, and ask that the Board direct our Administration to begin the process to write this into our school district policies.
The website rates Iowa as receiving an F in addressing bullying, both from the state level and from school district level policies. I can not think of one reason why Clinton Community Schools should not be a leader in this State in stopping discrimination, bullying, harassment, and intimidation for ANY reason.
Defining the victim is like defining a particular leaf on a tree. Discrimination, bullying, harassment, and intimidation originate in the root, not in the leaf. I prefer to attack the root problem, rather than identifying individual leaves.
For these reasons, I will move to amend the current motion by striking the words "sexual orientation" and insert the words "or for any other reason". Robert's Rules of Order prohibit me from making another motion at this time. Immediately following the Board vote on the motion before us, I will follow this with a presentation to the Board and community of a new anti-discrimination, bullying, harassment, and intimidation policy, and a motion to direct Administration to prepare and present to the Board a new and stronger anti-bullying policy.
I do not condone discrimination, bullying, harassment, or intimidation against any student. But our policies MUST protect all students. Our actions need to clearly spell out our position that we desire to protect all students, which is not done by identifying another sub-group, especially one that is objectionable to the majority of our voters. No one has objections to the sub-groups as identified in our current policies. In most of these cases, I suspect the separate identifications are legally required. Such is not the case with sexual orientation as a unique sub-group.
In closing, I would like to address those of you in the audience, and those watching our meeting at home on television. In just a few minutes this Board is going to vote on the motion before us. I want each and every one of you to know, that regardless of how each Board Member votes tonight, every one of these Members have one overriding theme in mind. It is "What is best for our students?" When we leave this meeting tonight, we will still all be friends. I ask you to also accept the majority vote, no matter which way this vote goes.
Mr. President, I move to amend the motion by striking the words "sexual orientation" and after the word "disability" insert the words "or for any other reason".

Here is the 2nd message:

Mrs. High,
I trust you received my previous message containing the comments I had prepared for the Clinton Community Schools Board Meeting. I presented those comments during the discussion on the (previous) motion to include sexual orientation in our harassment policy. The motion passed 6 - 1 (I voted No).
The Board did unanimously agree to accept the proposed anti-bullying policy from Kennewick Schools that I presented. The policy was referred to our administration, with a plan to discuss it at our Committee of the Whole meeting the end of this month, and for Administration to report back with a proposal no later than our December meeting. I am hopeful that Clinton Community Schools will be the first district in Iowa to receive better than an F from your organization.
Thanks again for your support and advice.
Les Shields, Board Member
Clinton Community Schools
Clinton, Iowa

Another note from Brenda

I totally agree - All children need to be protected from bullies and no victim of a bully is more important than another. To define victims is wrong because any child can be victimized by a bully. We must stop the bully from bullying - thus we stop their targets from becoming victims.

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