Bully Petition – Transcripts of Public Comments from School Board Mtg.

TranscriptsThe school board held a regular meeting on March 26, 2014 to address the Bully Petition.  One of the things they discussed during the meeting is a survey that was taken at Colville High School. After the board discussed the survey, they turned to the large grouping of community at the meeting for input.

A few interesting notes about the meeting:

– Many ASB students showed up.

– While the room could hold quite a bit more people than it was set up for, I could not get any school board director to organize it so more people could sit down. I asked them to get more chairs because there were people standing up and people spilling out into the hallways. I asked Director Krista Ohrtman to help get more chairs so people could sit down and she said she wasn’t sure she had the authority do do that. I asked Sid Green for help and he said, “That’s not my job.” By the way, any director has the authority because it’s their meeting. I have seen many more people sit in that room than what it was set up to accommodate for this night.

In my opinion, the board sure seemed to be trying to keep people out of the meeting, or uncomfortable enough to want to leave. The bully incident was scheduled fairly far down on the agenda and didn’t start for nearly an hour. That means, the board left many people who wanted to speak standing for well over an hour. I consider this reprehensible behavior by the board because you never know when someone has a medical condition that makes it difficult for them to stand. The individuals sitting in the hall had a lot of trouble hearing what was going on in the room and weren’t able to speak. Seems like if the board wanted the discussion to be heard, they would have accommodated everyone equally, but that’s just my opinion.

Incidentally, I have since found that a person can do a “Point of Privilege” and ask the board to accommodate these individuals per the Roberts Rules of Order:

Point of Privilege: Pertains to noise, personal comfort, etc. – may interrupt only if necessary!

I also found this on the Attorney Generals page: http://www.atg.wa.gov/OpenGovernment/InternetManual/Chapter3.aspx#.VIBnlMlS9Rk

While the OPMA allows the public to attend all meetings, it does not allow for the possibility of insufficient space. Presumably, if a nearby location is available, the governing body should move there to allow attendance.

– As an FYI – I gave up my seat for someone else to sit in and sat in the hall for the meeting, so I wasn’t able to speak.

As always, I apologize for mistakes with anyone’s names.

School Board President Sid Green Ok (garbled) go on. (Inviting public comment). Paul?

Paul Brozik One thing I would say would be that – One thing that happened at the high school would be that when doing survey’s with the students is that for one, the teachers take them more seriously and the students take them more seriously to know that there really is an issue in the – possibly by doing this – by putting the (garbled – excessive audience noise on tape) complete.

Sid Green The whole idea is we put the survey out there, whether they take it seriously or not, we can’t force them. You know, we can’t sit behind them and say take it seriously. And you’re going to get that.

Student Plus isn’t the whole idea of there being an issue still kind of speculative at the moment? That was one thing that raised the concern in the first place.

Sid Green Whether there is an issue?

Sid Green That’s …

Sid Green You don’t think there is?

Student I personally don’t. I love all of my teachers, I interact with them amazingly. I have no problems.

Sid Green Well, surprisingly enough, yes, you’re going to have that. You’re always going to get kids that say yes, they love everything about school. And then we got kids over here that hate everything about the high school and all their teachers. So what you have to do is try and make it some where in between.

Michael Cashion You survey them

Director Sandy Moore Right, you try and survey them

Sid Green So, you know, the biggest thing is a safety issue. Kids need to feel like when you walk in that school at 8:00 in the morning, you feel safe. It’s not whether you want to be there or not. No. Nobody wants to be in school, but you know,

Laughter and guffaws from audience

Crosstalk

Sid Green But the point is that you need to feel like you’re safe and you can walk down the halls and school becomes more enjoyable to where you do want to go to school. But when you get up in the morning and you walk and say ‘I really cannot want to go to school today’. That’s the stuff we gotta stop. Go ahead (talking to audience)

Student As Paul was touching on like surveys – so we all took the survey and I know how a lot of kids that think of it as a joke because a lot of the questions weren’t really like – they weren’t really serious – like. They were like – have you ever been punched or kicked? So a lot of people said yes I’ve been punched – like just messing around with friends. So maybe make the questions a little bit more like in a serious way have you ever been punched.

Sid Green But see, that’s where it becomes – you know the line becomes really hard to follow, which is (garbled) Ok, you’re joking around with your friends and you punch each other. Somebody walking down the hall thinks you’re fighting. See, so when is it ok and when is it isn’t? That’s the problem.

Student So then my question is how does a survey – how is that going to help us decide any of this? Because I know I didn’t take the survey seriously when it asked if you’d seen a rock thrown at someone or if you’ve seen a rock thrown. Because you can’t seriously answer that question without a proper context. So basing whether or not there’s a problem off of a survey is going to get us absolutely nowhere.

And if bullying is such an issue that so many people feel so unsafe at our school, then maybe they need to be the people to bring some sort of confidence to go to someone to have the issue fixed. Because 90 percent of the kids here in the front row, these I’m pretty sure think that there’s no problem with bullying in our school. And we’re all in very diverse areas of the school.

Sid Green Do they think that there’s no problems going on or do they feel at least if they know there’s a problem that they have an avenue to get it taken care of?

Student I can’t speak for everyone, but I feel that there are no serious bullying problems going on. But that’s my personal opinion, I can’t exactly speak for all these people.

Sid Green (garbled – invites someone to speak)

Student I feel that when a person attends school is bullied, joking around or however you want to take that – by kids. Then it comes to a point where they feel bullied. And then, like I (garbled) can’t joke with them or laugh, I take them more seriously because I respect them more and (garbled) have a friendship with them. I think teachers like to have that with kids, so I feel that if someone is feeling bullied by peers – meaning students – and then the teacher jokes with them. (garbled) it’s simple – they’re happy – they’re not being derogatory or anything. They can – I’m not saying that’s what happens but it can – I feel like it can be taken as if they’re harping on that student. Probably everyone’s being a downer and (garbled) .

Sid Green Go ahead (speaking to another audience member)

Student Ok, so it’s not – what I’m talking about is it’s not quite about the survey. There are serious issues where people get bullied and there is issues where they bring it on themselves. When I was younger, I was bullied, I depended on friends, and they helped me get through it. A lot.

The only acts of bullying at the high school right now are people that bring it on themselves. At the high school we various ways of helping with bullying like (garbled) talking with friends, we all stick up for each other. At the high school there’s several kids that I had to deal with a bully and I fixed it. We talked to each other. The only people that are being bullying right now are bringing it on themselves.

Sid Green Ok, let me ask you this, when you say ‘bring it upon themselves’, what do they do to bring it on themselves?

Student They pester kids, they annoy kids, they say ‘oh look what I got’ and then they just want to be left alone. So they battle with each other. It’s not like just one way. Like when I was younger, I was a straight A student and I was overweight. People would make fun of me for it. I never talked to them, they would just make fun of me for it. People at the high school that are being bullied right now, they say something to a kid in a derogatory tone, and then that kid dishes it back. It’s not bullying, it’s just (garbled).

Sid Green Just being kids.

Student I want to add one more thing. I feel that bullying is taking – is being taken seriously. (garbled) It’s not a recent thing, it happened in kindergarten. Me and another kid were friends and we bullied each other. I mean flat out and it got to a point where we got in a fight on the playground (garbled) push each other. It was taken very seriously, our parents were talked to right away and Mr Jensen went with us and made us work together on some exercises per say, and they worked great. Now (name) and I are great together and we hang out (garbled). We went from beating each other to (garbled) taken seriously.

Sid Green Go ahead

Student Circling back to your original point, especially at the high school level, kids have a lot of different avenues to report. Mr. Cecil is wonderful at his job, Mr. Knight is wonderful at his job. They are both very personable. I’ve met Mr. Cecil several times out of school when I was talking to him and he’s a really good guy. Most of the kids have at least one teacher that they can go to and if they have trouble. So, and there’s the hotline and different ways of reporting, so I have trouble seeing any other way that the administration can add to that. Cause there’s a lot of different – there’s a lot of avenues that you can go down. To report bullying, and so how are you going to help a kid that isn’t willing to take one of the opportunities that are given to them?

Sid Green Did they pay you to say that?

Laughter

Sid Green Anybody else? Go ahead.

Student Kind of sparring off what (garbled name) said with kids that are bullied in our school, it’s definitely not anything like I’m going to beat you up and take your lunch money. It’s nothing like that. It’s the (garbled) like if a kid is disrespectful to a teacher and doesn’t do his homework in class or like, work in class you know. And then maybe the teacher’s not so willing to help that particular student because they don’t take advantage of their class time to work.

And I know I’m definitely not a perfect student, I get yelled at in class. I know when I deserved it, but you can’t call that teachers favoring certain students because I know that 90 percent of the student athletes in our school, they work 100 percent through the day. And I’ve been a student athlete all four years of high school and I’ve never had a grade handed to me. And I can speak that none of them have either. So there is nothing like that at the high school.

Sid Green Thank you. Go ahead.

Student (garbled) a cheerleader, we go to like the football with the football league games. We get back maybe one, two in the morning and we still like – we can’t just like say we have our grades handed to us and we still have to work that extra way.

Sid Green Sometimes three and four in the morning. Scott go ahead.

Scott Martin Well, first of all, I’m glad there are so many kids saying there isn’t a problem, but that doesn’t off set the fact that there are kids that are having problems. And I appreciate all the kids coming up in support and the thing is if we had 100 percent bullying here, then this room would be full of it and you would have a very serious problem as a board, but we don’t.

But we do have a problem. It’s evident from the non-school generated survey that was the petition. There were people that went on there and stated very specific issues they’ve had for years. I will testify to the fact that my children have been bullied by teachers. And when I read the petition and I read people’s comments, I felt horrid. Because what I did was I went down and had a meeting with the principal. Proved the teacher was doing what my student said was going on and I got my student out of that classroom. I was happy at the time, and the principal just let things go.

But when I heard about some comments, and one of the students that posted had a comment that sounded just like what we had experienced and stated nothing had been done. When I realized that I did the process. I went to the principal, filed my complaint, had a meeting in the office and my student was taken out of the class. I was happy and content at that point. Yay, my kid’s out of that classroom. But I didn’t realize that there were still 25 kids still in that classroom. And I didn’t realize for the next ten years, there were more students in that classroom.

There is an issue. It needs to be addressed and I believe the problem is, it’s not – it’s not getting addressed in a proper way. There are many students and parents I have talked with that have experienced same issues, same teachers, same principals and it’s still going on.

My issue is if it’s student on student, you guys have reports. Every school prints a bullying report student on student. But if it’s a teacher on student, there’s never a record, ever. You can’t go down to any of these principals that I went and sat in an office and complained about my student and something was done or not done. There is no record that you can look at that says that took place. And I think that’s the problem.

There’s no record of what is actually taking place. And it goes on for years, and all of a sudden some student has the courage – thank you by the way (talking to Paul Brozik) – of going public because he’s tired of how the district is handling the situation. He chose to go public, and as soon as he did what happened? A firestorm of people filled that petition with similar or same exact commentary.

Now I’m glad there are kids that aren’t experiencing it, but the fact is that there are kids that are experiencing it and that needs to be dealt with. And I think you need to look at the policy of how a student really reports it. If they call or send a text in, the fact is they never know what’s taken place. I was involved with it, and when I asked what discipline took place, I was told “I can’t tell you.” Even though it involved my children, I wasn’t allowed to know what took place if anything. There’s no record of it and I think that’s what needs to change.

Sid Green Ok, anybody else? Go ahead Don

Don Robson And just to make clear, this isn’t just at the high school, seems like we’re focused on the high school because of the petition, et cetera but there’s a lot of incidents that happen at the Junior High as well as The Fort. I don’t know about Hoffstetter, but I know that I’ve experienced some incidents myself with the staff at the Junior High. And I don’t believe there was much- if anything done with that.

Like I brought up last week in the meeting, I believe there’s got to be some sort of tracking mechanism for these parents and students that bring these reports in to the principal so that it’s not just swept under the rug. What I’m told is “I’ll take care of it, I’ll go talk to that person.” But theres no – I don’t get the feeling that there is any follow up. So if I don’t get that feeling as a parent, that there’s any follow up, what student would have any faith in an anonymous tip line – that they’re going to call and anything is going to be done? I think that’s the perception is that the students that do know about the anonymous line don’t have any faith in it. There’s nothing going to be done. I think the administration needs to present and change the perception that something is actually going to be done.

I understand that from last week it was said that it’s almost impossible to fire a teacher. Well, that’s on the very far end of the spectrum. Fortunately, most of the teachers in this district are good to excellent. There’s so many wonderful ones – I don’t want to take away from that. Unfortunately, there are some bad apples that if you were to talk about any of the schools, you would probably come up with some of the same names of teachers that have problems with students. How do we weed those out? If there’s no tracking done when parents come in, then how is there any record?

If it is necessary to discipline a teacher or even go so far as to fire them, how do you do that – when you do have a union you have to go up against – if you have no record or there’s no tracking mechanism? You can’t. As with any employee, you have to track those things. What I suggest or what I request is that there’s some method formulated to track these incidents so you can see what you’ve got to work with.

Is there people that are having a lot of complaints? On the other end of the spectrum, that way you’ll also know that there’s these teachers that haven’t had a complaint in five years. Let’s recognize them and indicate, because there’s some teachers in this room that are just incredibly head and shoulders above the other ones that need recognition.

I just ask that there’s some method of tracking. If there has to be a formal complaint, my understanding is that – what I’ve heard is that there’s no formal complaint complain submitted. If that’s the requirement for you to track it, then ensure that principals and other administrators are letting the parents and students know that – here, this is the process that you have to do. You have to submit a formal complaint so that we can track it. Because otherwise, people just don’t have any faith in the system – and without faith in the system, we’re just wasting our time.

Sid Green Anybody else? Go ahead.

Audience Member It sounds like tonight, we have a little problem with communicating. I’m hearing it from parents, I’m hearing it from kids. We just need to be able to talk more appropriately and more effectively with each other. You know, as a community. As a community of teachers, as a community of students, as a community of the city of Colville. We just – we have a little trouble communicating and when we can’t use our voices and our words, it seems that we are using technology and we’re not doing a very good job.

Sid Green Very good point. Go ahead.

Student Ok, so I want to apologize. I’m not the best speaker – last time I talked I was trying to get to two points, and a question if I may too. Guys?

Sandy Moore Mmm-hmm sure.

Student One of my points was the petition that was filed – was he actually being bullied? Was he being constantly picked on and called names – or was he bringing it on himself. Was he annoying the other students? So why was the petition filed is my main point. And my second point is if this is such a big deal on bullying – that petition – then why is Mrs. _____ gone? Why did we bring her into this? There are students at the high school – seniors for example. We have our economics summit – we are behind, we haven’t even talked about that, while other teachers are talking about it.

And for Juniors, they’ve – department map test, where you have 150 countries we have to memorize. They haven’t even started studying. Other teachers had over two weeks. And my question for you guys is when is she going to come back, because we miss Mrs. _____.

Sid Green None of us can answer that. We’re not going to get into Mrs. _____’s situation.

Student Alright. I was just wondering what are we doing for grades for that? Because (garbled) I was just wondering like, do we not get any grades from now on? Or…

Sid Green Michael?

Michael Cashion I think that will be accommodated for. Ask Mr. Knight.

Sid Green Ok, anybody else?

Dusty Stark I just wanted to say, all these high school kids that are here – when I show up for these things, (garbled). I think it’s great that you guys are here. Also, whether it’s this gentleman – or I guess it’s (garbled) here that I’ve talked to on line or any of you guys that believe in something and are speaking out about it.

I’d like to point out one thing. Just because you guys feel good about something doesn’t mean that the boy or girl sitting next to you feels the same way. You’re having a great experience – they might not be. Just because they don’t speak out about it doesn’t mean that there’s not a problem. So that’s just something to keep in mind.

The other issue that I hear a lot of is ‘kids will be kids’ and the young lady that spoke over there, she said that there’ll be bullying everywhere. I grew up not that long ago, and I was on both ends of the spectrum. I was an athlete that didn’t hang out with athletes. I stuck up for the other kids. So we didn’t get bullied very much

It – that is the wrong attitude. It’s the same attitude years ago – ‘there’ll be slavery everywhere’. One man stood up and said no there won’t be and now in America, there’s not slavery. It’s the same attitude – we got to get – I’ll bring it back to an NFL analogy. They have these problems with concussions, people – you know – coming over Ronnie Lott (?) used to blow people out from the middle helmet to helmet all the time. Finally they made a ruling ‘helmet to helmet contact 15 yard penalty’. Every single time, it doesn’t matter the intent.

And she said certain situations or handle on a case by case basis – I think in this day and age, a case by case basis – especially for bullying – is not an appropriate way to handle this. There should be steps. I’m not – I don’t know what those steps should be, but there should be a clear, definitive program or consequence; definition. So everybody knows what bullying is, what’s going to happen when you do it. The parents know, everybody can know. There can’t be – well this might happen, or this might happen. No. Doesn’t matter the intent, he laid that (garbled) helmet to helmet. You bully someone, first time this is what’s going to happen, the second time this is what’s going to happen. I think this will be a huge step. So that’s – you know – instead of a floating outlook on it.

Sid Green Ok, anybody else? Rob?

Director Rob Sumner I’m listening to everyone that’s bringing different opinions and points in here. I’m listening to the students that are representing a self proclaimed majority of the student body. The question that you present is the individual that wrote the petition, was he ever bullied in class. To me, the content of the petition isn’t as important as what has come from the petition. When you have members of the community, former individuals that were a part of the school; parents, representatives of the community and the school that come forth and say there is issues – something as a school board we have to take very seriously. As administrators we have to find a consensus on to find out how we are going to deal with this.

We talk about 90 percent of the people at the ASB don’t have a problem. The whole fabric of our constitution and bill of rights is really to protect the minority from the majority. So with us making sure that the minority of individuals aren’t getting bullied, we have to handle that properly, even if a majority of people aren’t being bullied.

Sid Green Ok, anybody else?

Audience Member I want to say just really quick. I respect everything everyone is saying and when you say they brought it upon themselves, the first thing I think of is ‘Well she was raped because her skirt was so short or her b**bs were showing”.

Sid Green Good point.

Audience Member Ok, so when you say that, you’re not giving them the chance to listen to how they feel. My step son, last week, punched somebody in the privates and I had to take him home. And I’m glad I did. Did he bring it on himself? I’m not going to tell him that, he reacted. Poorly. Did that little boy bring it on himself to have him punch him in the n*ts? No. My – he reacted poorly. So just think about when you say ‘when you bring it on your – themselves’.

I teach third grade and I have kids that drive me crazy. And they have issues, so I don’t think they bring those things on themselves. That’s part of who they are and we have to accept those things.

Applause

Sid Green Anybody else before we move on?

Sandy Moore I’ll just say we take this issue really seriously and I so appreciate everybody coming and sharing your views. Don’t think that it is just going to be dropped at this point. We won’t. We have to go over the topic one way or the other, but I do think it’s our duty as a school board and as a district to gather as much information as we can to figure out which direction we should take going forward to make sure that our school is a hospitable  environment for learning. And in every single case. That’s what we are here to do is to educate the kids in a friendly and happy environment (garbled).

I’m sure there are always things we can do to make it better and we certainly can use this situation to figure out if there are things we can do to change to make sure that every kid is respected and safe and learning at our school.

Sid Green Ok, moving on.

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