I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The School District Must Follow the Law and School Board Policy

I feel sorry for students who have train-wreck home lives, I truly do.  I want to do everything I can to help such students.  And there is no shortage of such students here in Escambia County.

With this said, there is absolutely no excuse for any student-no matter how poor he is, where he lives, or what his dysfunctional home life might be---to bully, harass, and/or abuse another student.  Every student deserves to be safe at school—rich, poor, White, Black, Hispanic, Asian—all students deserve a safe school environment and I’m fed up with the inaction on corralling the bullying taking place in our schools.

I have brought examples and described circumstances that were not handled appropriately.

Yesterday I had to point out yet another one, where the law and school board policy apparently was not followed.

It seems like every month lately I hear from constituents and/or I find in the back-up documents anecdotal evidence that our policy against bullying and harassment (mirrored from state statutes) is not being followed with fidelity.

I went ballistic in February over this, and was assured that we were doing it right from “now on.”

Two months later in April of this year, the same thing happened at another school and the teacher was deliberate in describing the incident as bullying, even going so far as to document that the perpetrator had victimized the same student on more than one occasion.  The teacher knew it was bullying, and called it that.  

But the school neither coded it as bullying, nor did the statutorily required 10 day investigation.  If 

they did, they could not produce for me the documents verifying they had done the investigation.
So I’m through.  I said it in the meeting and I stand by what I said.

I do not want to read a story like this one happening here in Escambia County, so I’m taking action now. 

If I again find evidence that we are not or have not faithfully followed school board policy and state law on dealing with reports of bullying and harassment—I will self-report to the Department of Education, the Governor, and the Inspector General. I will do it  unilaterally.

I understand we could face a significant sanction (Over $1 Million in safe-schools allocation) if we are found to have not abided by this law, so I will make such a report with no malice but with a heavy heart.

But I’ll do it because student safety demands this, and perhaps the only way to get this straightened out, sadly, is through a hefty financial penalty.

I hope I never have to self-report, but I will if our policy is not followed.  

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