Londonderry School District Looks to Update Bullying Policy

Bullying can be an unfortunate part of any student’s school experience, regardless of what grade they are in, but preventing and disciplining acts of bullying is a rather complicated process.

The Londonderry School District is in the process of making sure that these incidents are not ignored, as was a point of discussion during the Aug. 28 School Board meeting.

According to Superintendent Scott Laliberte, the district has been urged by parents in the Londonderry community to address the current state of bullying in their schools. More specifically, the district was tasked with addressing the disparity between bullying incidents being reported and incidents actually being disciplined.

District staff have been reviewing their bullying policies and found that there are significant opportunities to improve on the reporting process. For example, Laliberte noted there are multiple sets of forms to report hazing, harassment, and so on. He would like to see one, universal process to handle any bullying incident. “No matter what category an infraction falls under, the same process is used to investigate it”, Laliberte noted.

Laliberte has also met with various principals and assistant principals to discuss consistency when tracking reports of bullying. He wants to create a bullying screening form that will accomplish two goals: allow the incident’s progress to be tracked, and determine whether or not the report was unsubstantiated, or had no evidence to prove it. Laliberte believes this process will make communicating with parents over an incident easier. “We believe, down the road, that we can actually integrate this into our student information system”, Laliberte said.

Finally, Laliberte will be leading a program where administrators will judge a series of hypothetical bullying scenarios this fall. He believes that the program will help establish more consistent standards amongst administrators for what should be considered bullying. Overall, the members of the board supported the changes, with Board Chair Jenn Ganem noting how she recently spoke with Governor Chris Sununu and how he supported the idea and is even looking into updating the state’s policy on bullying. However, several members had concerns, with Vice Chair Nancy Hendricks wanting to see a policy update concerning threats of violence, while Board Member Steve Young noted that there could be a major spike in bullying reports due to a policy update.

Laliberte also addressed the implementation of a Cultural Competency program that will take place throughout the 2018-2019 school year. This program was developed in response to an incident at the end of the last school year when a student came to school wearing black face. Laliberte hopes that such a program will educate the students about racism, instead of just disciplining it. In addition, staff will also be taught by the program to help them learn about to handle issues of racism amongst students. Handling the program will be Bobby Bagley, the Division Director in Nashua for the Division of Health and Public Services, Amy Parece-Grogan, the Behavior, Health, Cultural, and Linguistic Competence Coordinator for NH Department of Health and Human Services, and Dr. Dottie Morris, the Associate Vice President for Instructional Equity and Diversity at Keene State College. “What we are really looking for is a thoughtful, sustainable approach to developing cultural understanding amongst all of our students”, Laliberte noted.

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