November 10, 2010

School board eyes policy revisions

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- With just two months until school districts across the state must comply with the new bullying law, Derry’s school board is beginning to take a look at revising its own policy.
“We are going along with components of the law right now, but we still have a lot of work to do to address the changes that are going to be in place,” said Superintendent Mary Ellen Hannon at a Tuesday meeting of the school board.
The board last week issued a call for parent input on the new policy and received several e-mails, Hannon said. No one spoke on the issue at Tuesday’s
 meeting. Hannon said parents who e-mailed had said they wanted to increase bullying education in Derry schools, which she said is already a requirement under the new law. 
“We definitely already have a curriculum for bullying, but we’re also looking at how to strengthen that right now,” she said. 
Further requirements include a statement on cyber-bullying, protections against student retaliation, specific consequence outlines and a process for disseminating the policy to stakeholders, Hannon said. Under the district’s current policy, letters are sent home to parents of both the alleged victim and perpetrator of a bullying incident and claims are investigated by the school’s principal or assistant principal, Hannon said. Then administrators come to a formal finding in the case and issues consequences, she said. 
Parents of bullied students often want to know specifics about what consequences have been doled out, Hannon said, but she said that that kind of confidential information will remain protected under the new law. 
“We are still not allowed to speak about that and that’s probably the biggest frustration,” she said.
The school board’s policy committee will begin writing a bullying policy at its regular meeting on Friday morning. 
“We’ll compile information and make sure that we really hit home with pieces that parents said they want to see and bring a first draft back at the next November meeting,” Hannon said. 
Parents will have another chance to address the board on the matter during the public portion of the next meeting on Nov. 23. 
All school districts are required to abide by the new state law starting on Jan. 1. 

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