South Portland schools move toward new policy to report bullying

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SOUTH PORTLAND — A new policy on bullying is expected to get a second reading and vote next month after it received unanimous initial support Monday from the School Board.

The next School Board meeting will be at 7 p.m., Jan. 14, 2013, at City Hall.

School Superintendent Suzanne Godin said the policy was actually revised and separated from other harassment policies, as required by a law passed this year by the state Legislature. Rep. Terry Morrison, D-South Portland, sponsored the bill.

The policy allows students, parents or school staff to report incidents of bullying and cyberbullying, as witnesses or victims, to school principals or designated officials. Reports can be made anonymously, but no action will be taken against anyone accused of bullying based solely on an anonymous report.

School employees who make complaints will have to use their names and fill out a form.

A principal or designated official must record receipt of a bullying report and forward a copy of the report to the school superintendent by the end of the next school day. An investigation, including documentation of the incident and any actions taken, must be made and reported to the superintendent “within a reasonable period of time,” according to the policy.

As defined in the policy, bullying includes harming a student or their property,  making them reasonably fear physical harm or property damage, “creating an intimidating or or hostile educational environment,” or interfering with a student’s academic performance or ability to participate in school life.

Cyberbullying means using technology or electronic communication to bully a student.

The board also initially approved policy revisions on the first chapter of the policy handbook. While complimenting the board for taking on the revisions and updates, Godin said there is work left to do.

“The bad news is we are only on Chapter A,” she said.

Board members also allowed Godin to negotiate a contract to buy two new buses from Kennebunk-based W.C. Cressey & Son.

Transportation Director Dan Lamarre said the buses, which were approved in the fiscal year 2013 budget, will hold 77 and 66 students. The smaller bus will have a lift and room for three wheelchairs, reducing total capacity to 45. The smaller bus will also have safety belts, so it can be used to transport pre-schoolers.

Lamarre said the buses replace two buses removed from service about three years ago.

Also Monday, encouraging city students to continue with higher education got a $66,000 boost in the form of a four-year grant from the Maine Education Loan Marketing Corp. Foundation, commonly known by its MELMAC acronym.

The foundation has made grants to city schools ince 2003, helping to fund college visits for sophomores, scholarships, financial aid workshops, and visits from college admissions officers.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.