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by Janet Schultz
On the minds of most school administrators, teachers and parents are incidents both locally and nationally involving bullying. Lewiston-Porter School District residents were told at Tuesday evening's Board of Education session that Lew-Port officials take reported incidents of bullying and harassment seriously, and that those incidents are fully investigated and appropriate actions are taken.
"Any harassment is taken very seriously," said Superintendent Christopher Roser. "We always involve all parties, including parents, and at any grade level."
The discussion was prompted when the board received and approved an update to its policies on non-discrimination and anti-harassment in the school district and "Bullying: Peer Abuse in the Schools."
New York state has passed the Dignity for All Students Act, which will take effect on July 1, 2012, mandating districts to do more with regard to bullying and harassment. At this point the State Education Department is setting regulations and it is unsure how they are going to mandate the directive and what the consequences will be if not followed.
Lew-Port's policy clearly states that bullying and peer abuse in schools is prohibited between any individuals including student-to-student, student-to-teacher, teacher-to-teacher, parent-to-teacher, etc.
If such incidents are reported there is an immediate, thorough and equitable investigation. Lew-Port also involves the local police department.
Currently Lew-Port has nine policies in place that address the issue. Those policies provide for a complaint procedure, provide for treating others with respect and provide whistle-blower protection. The school's code of conduct also addresses bullying and cyber-bullying.
"Lew-Port is in a great place once the act goes into affect," said attorney Ryan Smith, who has been working with the school's policies.
"Every allegation gets a response, at any level," emphasized board member Michael Gentile.
"This is the issue for 2011 and in the future," Roser said. "We are going to have to set up Facebook, Twitter and other social networking accounts to monitor what goes on."
The district will also provide instruction to students, parents and teachers on awareness and sensitivity to individual differences.
In other board business:
•The board received a report on the updating of the human resources area including policies, procedures, job descriptions and the department's website. A human resource assessment was completed and an action plan put into place, which included updating job descriptions that haven't been reviewed since the late 1960s. All information is accessible on the human resources website, including easy reading summaries of such items as the benefits package, work conditions and union contracts.
Policy manuals are also online.
"A lot of thought went into this," Roser said. "We made the web page a very useful tool for current employees and those seeking employment."
•Granted tenure to Christine Vogt-Fike in the area of special/special education. She is currently certified and completed a two-year probationary period.
•The district received a clean audit from Amato, Fox & Company PC. Don Rappold acknowledged the administrative services staff for their services in making this happen.
•Retirements were approved for Barbara LaBernardo, senior typist, effective April 1, 2013, and for Gloria Albion, teacher aide, effective June 30, 2013.
•Roser recognized the board for its volunteerism in celebration of Board of Education Month.
The meeting adjourned at 8:40 p.m. with no executive session.
In Lew-Port news and notes:
•The Primary Education Center has completed its Parents As Reading Partners reading competition with the second grade winning with more than 22,000 minutes for a total of 770,000 minutes of reading in the center.
•The Intermediate Education Center also completed its PARP Reading competition, logging 142,634 pages, exceeding the goal of 125,000 pages.
•Middle school students raised $2,000 in the "Kiss Your Hair Goodbye" fundraiser for cancer research.
•The middle school will present "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" as its musical production on Nov. 18 and 19.
•Upcoming Lewiston-Porter High School concerts include the choir on Nov. 8; and instrumental on Nov. 9. Both are at 7 p.m.