One of the first things students will learn when they arrive for the first day of school in Waupaca will be the district’s new anti-bullying policy.
Districts throughout Wisconsin are revamping policies to meet new guidelines from the state Department of Public Instruction.
The Waupaca School Board adopted the new policy at its Aug. 10 meeting.
“We have dealt with all of these issues over the years – from bullying to intimidation to hazing,” said Dr. David Poeschl, the district administrator. “A written policy is a good way to capture the essence of this type of behavior. It cites examples, as well as consequences.”
The policy defines bullying as “a series of negative and/or violent repetitive actions between individual students or groups of students. Bullying is deliberate or intentional behavior using words or actions, intended to cause fear, intimidation or harm. Bullying may be repeated behavior and involves an imbalance of power.”
Examples of bullying in the policy include assault, kicking, punching, slapping, pulling on clothes, shoving, spitting, making dirty gestures or faces.
Poeschl explained how “making faces” could constitute an act of bullying.
“Imagine a third-grader who was bullied out on the playground. Then he goes to lunch and the bully starts making angry faces at the kid. He’s intimidated and it affects him throughout the day,” Poeschl said. “If some kid sticks her tongue out at another kid, we’re not going to accuse her of bullying without looking at intent and what behavior preceded it.”
The policy provides a list of consequences for bullies. Minor infractions may result in a note to the parents, staying after school, a letter of apology, meetings with parents, staff, the bully and the victim. More serious or repeated violations of the policy may lead to loss of extracurricular privileges, suspension, even expulsion.
Poeschl said he could not recall a bullying incident that has resulted in a student being expelled. However, students have been suspended for bullying and the school police liaison officer has dealt with situations of harassment both in and out of school.
“We’re a very typical community with traditional issues of boys picking on boys and girls picking on girls,” according to Ben Rayome, the principal at Waupaca Middle School. “Most of the bullying and harassment we see tends to be verbal.”
The district covered new ground in its policy when it included a section on cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is defined in the policy as “when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed, or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen, or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones.”
Poeschl said that new technologies, especially those dealing with social networking, provide new opportunities for harassment and intimidation.
He noted that a cyberbullying situation may start off campus, such as negative comments posted on Facebook.
“If it caused a disruption at school, we would deal with that,” Poeschl said.
“Cyberbullying was included in the policy because we have seen it occurring more,” Rayome said. “It tends to start off school the previous night, then is carried over to school. The students are bringing those negative feelings that originated outside of school with them when they come to school, so it becomes an issue we must deal with.”
Rayome said one of the policy’s goals is to encourage students to report harassment and intimidation to the staff so that action can be taken to protect them from bullies.
“The kids are in school eight hours a day, five days a week,” Rayome said. “We want them to feel safe in our buildings, as well as in the community.”