Mokena SD 159 board to further discuss bullying
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY email@example.com June 22, 2012 7:00PM
Heidi Herrmann poses with her facebook web page where she has started an anti-bullying awareness campaign at her home in Mokena, Illinois, Friday, June 8, 2012. Heidi wants the Mokena school district to implement anti-bullying programs. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 25, 2012 6:30AM
Like bullies themselves, the issue of bullying is not suddenly going to go away in Mokena School District 159.
The school board last week approved revisions to the district’s parent-student handbook to include bullying and cyber-bullying as behaviors subject to disciplinary measures, and moments later — at the request of parents — it agreed to further discuss bullying at the July 18 meeting.
The subject could have been added to the July 18 agenda without a vote, but acting board president Patrick Markham asked for the vote just to underscore the “gravity” of the issue, he said.
Heidi Yergler Herrmann, who has said her fourth-grader is a bullying victim, was supported by a dozen other parents at Wednesday’s meeting as she asked the board to discuss it further.
Board member Kathy Moore, participating via speakerphone, supported the request but said the district has a policy.
“That means we support anti-bullying,” she said.
Moore suggested that an administrator explain how the policy works. Another parent suggested it’s not working.
“It’s difficult to believe the policy you have is effective,” Cha Martinez said. “This is a serious issue. The policy needs to be updated so it is effective.”
While her first-grader has not been a victim of bullying, she said, “My heart goes out to those who are.” She said her daughter told her students are punching and swearing at others in her first-grade classroom.
“If the (board) doesn’t take a stronger stance on this, I will take my daughter out of school,” Martinez said. “I’m not sending her to school to learn this kind of behavior.”
The revision to the parent-student handbook adds “bullying” to a list of disciplinary issues, but it is defined under “harassment.” It states that the district “prohibits” acts of “harassment, intimidation or bullying,” including any gesture or written, electronic, verbal or physical act that harms a student, damages a student’s property, or insults or demeans a student in such a way as to be disruptive to a student’s ability to learn or the orderly operation of the school.
Cyber-bullying became a new entry, separately defined as the use of electronic information — texting, emails, cell phone calls, blogs, chat rooms — that “deliberately threatens, harasses or intimidates” or places an individual in “reasonable fear of harm.”
Such behaviors are subject to disciplinary action that may include detention, suspension or expulsion, according to the policy.
The board also amended a policy to call for all students — previously it was fourth- through eighth-graders — to be taught violence prevention and conflict resolution “provided it can be funded by private grants or the federal government.” It says students should be taught age-appropriate Internet safety, including cyber-bullying awareness and response.
The district already had a policy to teach “character education.”
Herrmann said after her daughter was bullied for five months during the past school year, she got only “lip service” from school officials. She has launched a Facebook page: “We want an anti-bullying program at Mokena School District 159,” and wants the district to make the issue a top priority.