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U-46 board responds to more reports of bullying


By Seth Hancock
  Is there a need for more oversight on what is occurring at School District U-46 schools and how administrators handle incidents?
  Board member Jeanette Ward asked if board members were able to go to district schools and observe at a Board of Education meeting on Monday, Aug. 6.
  U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said: “We’ve not had a protocol specifically for board members just to show up to schools and observe unannounced, but we have had opportunities for board members to visit schools.”
  Ward’s question stemmed from public comments made that evening by parents of Wayne Elementary School students as well as a grandparent of a bullied student that went unaddressed. Ward also noted that earlier this year, several parents of Bartlett Elementary School students addressed similar concerns to the board.
  The Wayne parents described how their son, a kindergartner at the time, was punched, kicked and choked at recess but when they tried to address their concerns they were dismissed and handled inappropriately. They said their request this year to have their children attend Bartlett’s Sycamore Trails Elementary School, which they said was closer to their home, was denied.
  The mother of the boy said: “Contrary to the U-46 mission, Wayne was not a great place for my son to learn.”
  The boy’s father said the reason given to them for not allowing the transfer to Sycamore Trails was because his “son was not at Wayne last year,” but he noted they pulled their son from Wayne to attend private school because of the district’s lack of response.
  The grandfather said the district’s response was to use “bullying tactics” itself saying “ignoring a constituent’s request is a subtle and maybe not so subtle way of showing who is boss, the imbalance of power tactic often used by a bully.” He added: “Of course it’s quite possible this lack of response was not intentional and was just an oversight or a mistake or a lack of understanding the serious nature of the request, in other words, incompetence.”
  Ward said she would like to observe some of the elementary schools during recess and requested that a policy be drafted, if necessary, to allow such observations from board members.
  Miguel Rodriguez, chief legal officer, said: “There is a policy that does mention board members visiting schools, but I would imagine the board would have to set some parameters to figure out what the purpose of the visit might be.”
  The board’s policy 2.020 does list “Visiting the District’s schools” as one of the board member’s powers and duties, but no guidelines for visits is included.
  Board member Sue Kerr said she’s visited some schools in the past and said “as a courtesy to our principals and our teachers, I think we should at least alert people that we’ll be coming because quite often they want to treat board members well.”
  Ward responded: “I’m not suggesting showing up unannounced. I just would like to visit some of these schools where we’ve heard these kinds of reports. It doesn’t have to be unannounced.”
  Donna Smith, the board’s president, said she didn’t think a policy would need to be drafted and that such visits are allowed now, and Ward responded: “Ok, I’ll start setting up some appointments.”
  Kerr said that she’s had principals contact her to let her know she could call them to set up visits to which Ward asked if they should go directly to principals to make requests? Sanders said: “Typically the request will go through my office and we’ll do the alert for you.”
  Board member Phil Costello asked for clarification to make sure no policy was needed and Ward was content with the response. Ward said: “That’s fine with me. I have no problem with providing advanced notice.”
  Kerr said she would like to attend and observe some schools as well because she’s “curious about some of the programs.”

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