By Nina Johnson
After Indiana State legislatures revised the anti-bullying law in July, the Dept. of Education has been working to update policy recommendations for schools, but still hasn’t presented a final product.
As the first day of school approached without an updated policy from the department, the Carmel Clay School Board took emergency action to immediately recommend and approve a policy reflecting the new law.
“Carmel Clay schools has, for years, taken this topic very seriously,” said Dr. Steve Dillon, director of student services.
Dillon explained CCS has remained “ahead of the curve” with its bullying policies including redirection of bullies and support for victims.
He pointed out the new law gives the school “the authority… to apply a consequence.”
Board President Layla Spanenberg described the new law, which expands the school’s “scope of jurisdiction,” and Dillon confirmed that the law expanded the school’s reach so that “consequences would be applied for bullying behavior in off-campus and school break behavior.”
“There’s no obligation for (the school) to scour the world wide web’s social media for bullying,” Dillon said. “But the school corporation will take note of any bullying reported to the school that may have occurred off of school grounds and on the weekend.”
If bullying is discovered, the school will address the victim, the bully and contact parents to investigate the situation, Dillon also said, and noted this followed the district’s standing policy.
School board member Patricia Hackett pointed out the law’s definition of bullying seemed to overlap the school’s policy regarding harassment.
Dillon explained the new policy expanded the definition to consider the number of offenses committed against a victim by different individuals. Offenses committed by different individuals against the same victim would indicate “if a pattern of bullying is (to be) monitored.”
Board member Greg Phillips requested “a way of measuring the effectiveness of our new policy in case we need improvement.”
Dillon assured the board student disciplinary measures are tracked and reported to the state. The new law now recommends that schools track the history of offenses against victims to guard against patterns of bullying.
Teachers and staff will be “encouraged to immediately report” cases of bullying and will receive instruction regarding the new policy.
While the revised policy reflects the new law in time for the first day of school in the district on Aug. 14, the board must officially vote on the policy at its Aug. 26 meeting.