Cyberbullying policy OK’d

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Board > Trustees aim to reduce incidents that disrupt learning

By Tris DeRoma

The Los Alamos Board of Education recently voted to adopt a cyber-bullying policy. The state requested that all of its school districts have a policy in place by the end of August.

The board originally took up the issue in July, and opted to make some refinements to the policy before voting on it in August. At the time it was first introduced, the board had some reservations over privacy issues, responsibility for students using school hardware and software, as well as the policy just being too intrusive into the lives of faculty and students alike.

“I think, in general, we are struggling to address social media, and what we call the ‘Gen Y’ kids. This current generation has generally had the Internet at their fingertips since birth. So when we talk about social media we have to think about the world they’re used to operating in and we have to be careful about unintended consequences,” said Assistant Superintendent Gerry Washburn in a previous article about the subject that appeared in the Los Alamos Monitor.

At the board’s most recent meeting on the subject Washburn told the board he hoped it would be satisfied with the administration’s adjustments.

“What I tried to do was honor the board’s request that it be simple, that it not turn us into the social media police and that it allow us to write a regulation that would tie us into the bullying and harassment policies we already have in place,” he said.

While the policy specifically deals with “Use of electronic devices to willfully and repeatedly harm another person,” Board member Dr. Kevin Honnell thought that more needed to be said about one specific incident as well.

“Somehow, we need to get in there thoughts about the damage that can be done with one single incident,” he said. He added that though there may be single incidents that may arise that are very minor, there may be some single incidents that may also take only one time to seriously damage one’s reputation. He also requested the administration be more explicit when it comes to the use of school-owned equipment to carry out attacks as well as how the policy applies to staff.

He also suggested that the threshold to trigger penalties should be whether or not the action
“interferes with or disrupts a student’s ability to learn at school.”

Board President Jim Hall agreed, and also added that reporting an incident should take top priority, whether it be by a parent, student or staff member. As written, reportage was just one of many action steps in the disciplinary process.

The board then voted unanimously to pass the policy amendment with the suggested changes.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gene Schmidt said he was pleased with the board’s decision.

“I think that it is a step in the right direction,” Schmidt said. “Not only are we coming into compliance with state law but we are also announcing to the community that we are interested in what kids say about each other and how that could impact the education system if it comes on campus.”