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Cyber-bullying among code of conduct items discussed by Hamburg School Board

The long-standing issue of cyber-bullying, to go along with formulated ways of combating behavior falling under that designation, were items discussed as part of last Tuesday’s (June 11) Hamburg School District Code of Conduct hearing held at Armor Elementary School.

Colleen Kaney, who is the district’s director of Pupil Services and who serves on Hamburg’s Code of Conduct Committee, outlined the history of and several notable changes to the Code of Conduct. The current Code of Conduct, Kaney said, is two years old and applies to students, teachers, other district personnel, parents and other visitors. It was also stated that New York State regulations dictate that district Code of Conduct Committees report related findings to the public, with the annual review serving as “a proactive approach for (individuals) to know what’s expected of us,” according to Kaney.

A new classification of cyber-bullying, Kaney stated, defines the term as “a form of bullying,” with the term bullying to “implicitly include cyber-bullying even if it is not explicitly stated.” Further, the definition reads that cyber-bullying “can also be a form of intimidation, harassment and/or discrimination.” The refined definition is noted as being part of a new law slated to go into effect July 1 to address the term. Various misuses that fall under the cyber-bullying category include items done in the manner of “harassing, discriminating, teasing, intimidating, threatening, or terrorizing another student or staff member by way of any technological tool, such as sending or posting inappropriate or derogatory e-mail messages, instant messages, text messages, digital pictures of images or website postings (including blogs).”

It had previously been stated in districts locally and nationally that cyber-bullying includes use of technology and social networking tools- encompassing Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, AOL and other sites- to disparage others or present individuals in an unflattering manner. Tuesday, it was noted that Hamburg had incorporated a new program related to the matter for 2012-13, titled “Essential Partners,” an initiative that implemented Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) coordinators at each district building. DASA coordinators were described as serving as lead persons responsible for facilitating DASA execution. Such individuals are stated as being required to participate in training “in response to human relations in the areas of actual and/or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation and gender.”

The district’s Code of Conduct concludes that all forms of bullying in any form are unacceptable.

Hamburg’s 2012-13 DASA coordinators include Haney for the overall district, Tina LaMendola at Hamburg High School, Jill Crossetta at Hamburg Middle School, Leana Scibetta at Union Pleasant Elementary, Jean Tuholski at Armor Elementary, Anne Gilhooly at Boston Valley Elementary, and Nevia Ramos at Charlotte Avenue Elementary. It was noted that Hamburg School Board members will in the near future approve DASA coordinators for 2013-14. In addition to aforementioned volunteer duties, DASA coordinator duties include being accessible to students and other staff for “consultation and guidance as needed relative” to DASA. Another job item is stated as accepting reports regarding violations and conducting investigations as appropriate.

The district’s Code of Conduct Committee volunteer members include Kaney as well as various counselors, teachers, teacher aides, assistant principals and parents.

The Rights and Responsibilities section of the Code of Conduct was stressed Tuesday, with the Elementary Handbook stating that all students are to be respected by teachers, students and other staff; while pupils in turn must show respect for adults and students. Additional items include students have access to school materials and equipment, such as books, computers and playground facilities; while demonstrating proper use of these items. Lastly, students are expected to be safe in their school environment; while behaving in a way that does not affect the safety of themselves and others.

A Dignity Act addition includes a description reading that district students are to exercise aforementioned proper behavior, as well as to encourage others to act in a similar manner, while also reporting any incidents of intimidation, harassment or discrimination. A pupil’s rights under the Dignity Act addition include being protected from similar atrocities by other students or employees on school property or at a school-sponsored event, function or activity.

Notable items that are accompanying cyber-bullying under the category of Prohibited Student Conduct include unauthorized videotaping and altering pictures and/or videos digitally; as well as the use of vapor cigarettes. The first item encompassing the prohibited use of personal electronic devices and equipment- such as cell phones, MP3 devices and cameras- to videotape or alter pictures or videos digitally. Vapor cigarettes are said to now be included among prohibited items on school grounds, joining regular cigarettes, cigars, pipes or chewing/smokeless tobacco.

Kaney additionally stated that a Parent Night is planned in 2013-14 to further address cyber-bullying. She added that district discussions have taken place involving a national expert on cyber-bullying, and a plan is in place to have that individual visit the district during 2013-14 to study related issues in Hamburg as well as present findings to residents.

Identifying further issues stemming from bus travel, Kaney noted, is being addressed through the district’s contact with Fisher Bus Service officials.


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