Does Your Board Need a Policy Against Bullies?

By Edwin C. Darden

Lately, public school leaders are too often seen waging a valiant struggle against poisonous acts in which a student’s race and ethnicity are the source for hatred, while decorum and civility get carelessly cast aside.

When intentionally examined, 2007 appears to have been incredibly bad for race-based student misbehavior. While nooses, swastikas, and other symbols of hatred have never entirely gone away, in recent months incendiary words and acts seem to have experienced a disturbing renaissance.

In such an atmosphere, and with potential legal liability lurking just below the surface, the temptation for good people to do something becomes strong.

Below are some observations coupled with a few ways in which policy can help. Boards should address the learning climate before a crisis arises and they’re forced to react. Yet, the reality is this: Neither law nor school board policy has the power to change attitudes.

Done right, however, school boards, superintendents, principals, and teachers can demand a school climate in which every student -- regardless of background, ability, or disability -- feels entitled to respect and has swift, sure, and easy recourse when it is denied. 

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