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School District 833’s ‘enhanced’ bullying policy outlined; reports to increase

South Washington County School Board members got their first look last week at a revamped policy governing how the district handles bullying incidents.

The 10-page policy spells out how bullying incidents are to be reported, what action District 833 must take in response to reports, how retaliatory action is to be handled and how training is to be rolled out. Forms will be available to report bullying incidents, according to the proposed policy.

The policy comes in response to requirements set forth by Minnesota’s new Safe and Supportive Schools Act, which supporters said strengthened the state’s existing bullying law. Opponents of the legislation said it represented government overreach.

District 833 Superintendent Keith Jacobus explained the new policy was built with Minnesota School Board Association recommendations as its foundation and is overlaid with additional language from an existing policy to “enhance” the final product.

School Board members did not take action on the policy at Thursday’s meeting; it will likely be considered for final approval at the Aug. 7 board meeting.

School Board members Katy McElwee-Stevens and Katie Schwartz worked with administrators in refining the policy.

McElwee-Stevens said the district’s existing policy was already strong and didn’t require significant changes.

“We were ahead of that game already,” she said.

Assistant Superintendent Julie Nielsen said the new policy will mean an increase in bullying reports. It will be up to school leaders to determine the difference between actual bullying incidents and two-way conflict, she said.

Provisions of the proposed policy include:

-- Anonymous reporting, though schools won’t be able to rely solely on an anonymous report in determining discipline.

-- School employees and volunteers who witness bullying must be alert, prepared to intervene and are required to file a report.

--  Protection measures in place for victims of bullying at the discretion of school officials.

--  Disciplinary measures ranging from warnings and remediation to expulsion.

--  Parental notification of any remedial or disciplinary action taken against perpetrators in bullying incidents.

--  Training measures for staff, students and parents, including prevention and intervention, and help understanding factors surrounding bullying incidents.