Bullying legislation tops Barnstead agenda
Few parents take opportunity to learn about new bullying laws
October 19, 2010
BARNSTEAD — On Tuesday evening, Oct. 12, Barnstead Elementary School parents had the opportunity to ask the school board, principal and superintendent about the new bullying legislation passed in July.
The board and school administrators hoping to educate parents about the new law were disappointed by the low turnout; only half a dozen concerned parents attended the school board meeting, and of those, most were school board meeting regulars.
Still, the Barnstead Elementary School (BES) administration fielded a number of "thought-provoking" questions from audience members about the new law. Although the types of questions were often unexpected, the administration's sentiment about the legislation remained constant: the new law changes little except the amount of paperwork required of school administrators.
"It's not a real change, just a paper change," said Barnstead Elementary School (BES) Principal Tim Rice. "[Enforcing anti-bullying measures] has been a part of our core values."
"We're already dealing with examples of bullying," added Superintendent William Compton. "We're not waiting for January first (the deadline for compliance with the new law)."
The most important difference for them said Rice was the new timelines for reporting bullying.
"We're on the phone constantly with folks," he said.
According to the new law, everyone affiliated with a confirmed incident of bullying — including the parents of both the bully and the victim — must be notified within 10 days.
But Rice said they move so quickly they notify everyone "probably within two days on average."
"It's not our experience that we have people get away with anything," he said.
Rice explained other important changes to the new law. Before, he said, there had to have been a pattern of incidents before it had to be officially reported as "bullying." Now, however, bullying must be reported starting with the first "significant" incident.
"Everything is considered bullying at first," said Assistant Principal Jeff Drouin. "Then we sift [it through] the different policies."
Because bullying and technology-based "cyberbullying," can occur in or around students' homes, the board agreed that much of the reporting and enforcement of anti-bullying has to be done by parents.
"Parents should be on the forefront of stopping bullying," said board member Kathy Preston.
"The school can only control so much," added Vice Chair Diane Beijer.
In regard to "cyberbullying," which includes any sort of harassment or threat over e-mail, the Internet or text messages, Rice proposed a "trust but verify" strategy at home. He encouraged parents to "trust" their children were making good choices, but to "verify" their activity by randomly screening e-mails and text messages.
Rice and Compton also described everything they were doing to educate and train those impacted by the new law. According to Rice, the school has already instituted training for teachers, staff, students and parents.
Beijer informed the board that Pat Lucy, a retired BES Title One teacher, had recently passed away. Beijer said Lucy taught at the school for 19 years.
"She will be missed," said Beijer.
"She was very kind, very dedicated," said Preston, a friend of Lucy's.
A moment of silence was held in remembrance of Lucy's passing.
Judy Chase of Barnstead again brought up the issue of the "brown bus route," which she said had "too many kids at one stop."
The board said they were working with the bus company to overhaul the bus routes. Rice agreed with Chase that the routes needed significant restructuring.
Rice said school enrollment had decreased slightly. He said total enrollment from kindergarten through eighth grade had decreased five students to 503. The overcrowded seventh grade had also decreased two students to a total enrollment of 52.
Drouin presented the discipline report for the new school year. He said that there nine "major events" to date, including two incidents he classified as "major bullying." He added that 40 "minor discipline events" had also occurred, for a total of 49 total reported discipline incidents. He said the total number of "events" was up six from last year, but that the figure was still "not bad."
Rice reviewed the NECAP standardized test results for science. The test is conducted each year for grades four and eight.
Rice said the overall scores had gone down from last year in both grades tested.
"We're lagging a little bit behind state numbers," he said.
To help improve scores, Rice said he was looking into improving "higher order thinking." To this end, he proposed putting greater emphasis on lab work and writing skills in the school's science curriculum.
Chair Keith Couch suggested working closely with Prospect Mountain High School's science program. He said the high school had extra laboratory space that could potentially be used by BES students to conduct experiments.
Couch was disappointed with the drop in scores, but sympathized with Rice about the difficulties of trying to adapt school curriculum to test data.
"It's hard to change your tires when you're going down the highway," he said.
The board approved a snowplow service for the upcoming winter. Amy Ransom, the Barnstead SAU business administrator, said it would cost $11,500 for a one-year contract. She said they had budgeted $12,000 for plowing, meaning they were $500 under budget.
Ransom said the new BES modular ended up costing $62,000, $12,000 more than expected. She said the added costs had to do with a problem tying into the existing septic system, unexpected structural issues with the septic cover and additional unused construction plans.
Ransom said it cost $11,685 to recover from an unexpected server crash in the Barnstead SAU office. She said the figure seemed high, but that it was a much smaller price than what it would have cost to re-enter all the lost data.
Superintendent Compton announced that he was not going to seek a contract extension for his position. Compton's contract ends June 30, 2011.
The Barnstead School Board will meet again on Tuesday, Oct. 26, at 6 p.m. in the BES media room.
Weston Sager can be reached at 569-3126 or firstname.lastname@example.org