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Published November 22 2010

Minnesota School Board addresses bullying

The Minnesota School Board Association recently made minor changes to its policies on harassment and violence, bullying and hazing – but it’s “pure coincidence” the group revisited the policies now.

The topic of bullying, especially, has made headlines in recent weeks because of incidents reported nationwide and in local communities, some of which had fatal consequences.

All Minnesota policies are reviewed on a rotating basis, and this year was the designated time to update these policies, said Kirk Schneidawind, the school board group’s associate director of governmental relations.

“We felt very comfortable in our old policies, but at the same time, upgrading them is better for everybody,” he said.

Some of the updates also were made as required by recent actions in the Minnesota Legislature, he said.

Overall, the revisions seem minor, but they’re intended to make a difference by enhancing protection for students, Schneidawind said.

For instance, changes to the bullying and harassment policies now specify not only students but “groups of students” who could be committing the acts or being subjected to them.

There also are new provisions that warn of potential disciplinary action against any school personnel who fail to report incidents of bullying or hazing.

“We just felt that the minor changes that we made will have a big impact,” Schneidawind said. “It just makes good sense to have a very safe learning environment for all kids, and if we’re providing a safe learning environment, they’re going to be able to learn and achieve their potential.”

The policy updates were sent to school districts statewide earlier this month, and governing boards locally are beginning to look at them.

The Barnesville School Board first saw the changes last week and will likely have more discussions about it over the next month, Superintendent Scott Loeslie said.

For the Moorhead School District, all policy changes are first reviewed by the district’s policy committee before being brought before the School Board, said district communications coordinator Pam Gibb.

The School Board will take its first look at the harassment policy changes today.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541