Policy change: Schools soon to address cyber bullying

A new policy, expected to take affect later this year, would give schools power to address cyber bullying as it relates to their students.

“It’s rather impactful, a big change,” said Wapakoneta City Schools Superintendent Keith Horner.

The kindergarten through 12th-grade policy is expected to significantly change how the district handles bullying of its students and is being mandated at the state level. Primarily it addresses cyber bullying and bullying that occurs outside of school, but involves its students.

“The state has required that we have a bullying policy, but this is more involved, more expansive than in the past,” Horner said.

“Before our bullying policy stopped at the school doors, now it extends once they step outside school doors as well,” he said.

The policy is expected to allow school administrators to discipline students for cyber bullying, although Horner admits once they are handling situations outside of school it gets a little tricky.

“But obviously, we want no bullying,” Horner said.

“This is another way to address that,” he said.

In addition to giving schools more leeway to combat cyber bullying, the updated policy also would expand how it handles harassment and intimidation and would address not only bullying on school grounds but while students are riding buses (something Wapakoneta already has in place) and by electronic means.

“It gives us the green light to deal with bullying wherever it is occurring if it impacts the school day,” Horner said.

As part of the policy, school personnel also are to facilitate conversations with students about bullying, and specifically cyber bullying. Districts also would be required to provide inservice training for staff on bullying.

Last school year, one of Wapakoneta City Schools’ early releases addressed bullying and a district wide anti-bullying committee already has been established with representatives from each building. The group has started setting goals and making plans on how to approach them.

“It’s a difficult issue,” Horner said, adding that they planned to implement the new state policy as they could.

“We’ve always had cyber bullying and always addressed it as we could,” he said, specifying that the district didn’t handle the issue unless it occurred within school walls, such as from a school computer or school email account.

Even with the new policy in place, Horner expects enforcing it to be a challenge.

“It certainly could lead to an increase in work on our part, but I’m glad it’s there to give people a deterrent,” Horner said.

“Bullying is for sure a school issue but also a societal issue,” he said. “We can attack it at the school, but it’s not going to make a huge difference until we get more people involved.”