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Bullying legislation worries Valparaiso School Board

Updated: September 14, 2013 6:14AM



VALPARAISO — New state legislation that dictates how school corporations handle bullying — including outside the school setting — drew some concern during Monday’s Valparaiso School Board discussion session.

Board members wondered how realistic it was to expect school staff to handle incidents of bullying that occurred off school grounds or via social media sites outside of school hours.

“It really is taking on more of the responsibility of the community,” said board member Paul Knauff, who is a retired Thomas Jefferson Middle School principal.

Board member James Sarkisian agreed.

“Schools have ventured out into a climate beyond just the four corners of our buildings,” he said. “It’s just another step.”

The school corporation already is struggling with the definition of bullying, said board attorney David Hollenbeck, let alone having to be “the bullying police” in the community.

With technology, bullying via social media can take place any time of day and, once someone within the school corporation becomes aware of it, they have to take action, said Interim Superintendent Michael Berta.

“This is one more responsibility, and it’s a big one, that detracts from the teacher/learning process,” Berta said.

Among other requirements, the law also requires disciplining of school employees who fail to comply with the law.

“What is the punishment if we don’t report it, if we don’t think it rises to the level of bullying?” asked Sarkisian, who also wondered if students saying bad things about each other online was bullying.

The state Department of Education is helping formulate guidelines for how school corporations should proceed, Hollenbeck said.

Other new legislation the school corporation is grappling with as students return next week:

Changes in the transfer student policy as dictated by the state.

The school corporation children of school employees and students from the city’s two parochial schools who live outside of Center Township, to transfer into the Valparaiso schools.

Starting with the next school year, the school corporation will have to accept students from other districts based on available space, or accept no transfer students at all, Hollenbeck said.

Posting signs telling visitors that carrying a firearm on school property is a Class D felony, and signs warning those who use the schools’ fitness equipment outside of school activities that they are assuming any risk in doing so.



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