Clear Fork school board, community members discuss bullying

CLEAR FORK VALLEY — Clear Fork Valley school board members worked through a full agenda last week, getting reports on elementary school construction, finances, and plans to sell school property.

Several items not on the agenda meant the media room at the Clear Fork high school was full.

Several people had questions about bullying, which they say their kids have experienced.

One woman told board members the elaborate plans for two new elementary buildings don’t adequately serve children with special needs.

The board also voted in and introduced a new board member, Lori McKee. Two executive sessions were held during the course of the evening.

One parent, Melissa Ousley told the board she has a fourth grade boy who was touched by a student. Her son put his hands on the other boy, pushing him away, she said. He was suspended, not the person who started the episode.

She said she was told by a principal it was fighting, not bullying. She asked about a “zero tolerance” policy, which she said she thought was in effect.

Superintendent Janice Wyckoff said zero tolerance is a hard thing to define, but bullying is handled in a school handbook.

Ousley said her son was hit in the head 10 times and also pushed down the stairs. He was not harmed physically, she said.

She said her son was not given the opportunity to explain what had happened.

Board member Dan Freund said he doesn’t like the term “zero tolerance.” He said situations are “never black and white.” Freund said people should be talking about “logical consequences.”

Later in the meeting Middle School principal Jennifer Klaus gave a report on a study she has done on bullying incidents.

She said three terms should be used: rude, mean or bullying. They each have different definitions.

She said kids can say something inadvertently, like “Oh, I hate your tennis shoes.” That can harm the person hearing the remark. Being “mean” is when someone “purposely” says something, she said.

Bullying is “intentional and aggressive.”

The top three bullying behaviors involve disrespect, immature acts and cell phone violations, said Klaus.

One of the problems kids have expressed is that they are afraid to report any incident that could be bullying to school officials.

Klaus has developed an online form kids can use, which means their problem could be handled without having to make a bad report on someone in person.

Klaus developed the form for middle school students, but said it could be used “district wide,” later.

Board member Carl Gonzalez asked how many incidents are “wrongly reported.”

Klaus said that “commonly happens” because kids “say what pops into their minds.”

Lindsay Roberts of Bellville told the board she had looked at plans for special needs rooms at Butler and had been told they would be “state of the art.” She said the plans show a toilet and sink, and a wide expanse of windows.

She said intervention specialists in schools know having wide open windows makes it harder for kids to learn.

She said the location on special needs rooms is also difficult because it would be hard for kids in wheelchairs to be able to move to an exit area.

Wyckoff said nobody in planning sessions said anything about the window problem. She said she would “take responsibility” for the miscommunication.

The windows could be covered, and kids could draw on them, Wyckoff said.

Roberts said she doesn’t know “how you figure it out, but figure it out.”