Newspaper Smears San Angelo ISD Over Alleged Bullying Incident
SAN ANGELO, TX — Last week, the local newspaper aired the concerns of a parent who alleged her son was the subject of continuous bullying at Bradford Elementary. The gist of the piece was San Angelo ISD ignored the parents' concerns and didn't contact the parents of the children the complainant accused of bullying her son. After contacting the San Angelo ISD spokesman who told the paper they could not comment on specific cases, the paper asked School Board President Lanny Layman about the case. Layman told the paper that San Angelo ISD has very a specific protocol for cases like these.
The San Angelo Standard-Times hit piece against the San Angelo ISD juxtaposed the talkative complaining parents against school officials who were barred by law from commenting on an ongoing disciplinary action.
Not all the facts of any specific case could be laid out, but school officials we interviewed did provide us a detailed summary of the procedures and workflow all school district educators and administrators take when addressing bullying.
San Angelo ISD Superintendent Dr. Carl Dethloff and administrators involved in addressing reports of bullying sat down Monday with San Angelo LIVE! to discuss the district’s policies and procedures in light of the newspaper's recent inaccurate report.
Administrators in the San Angelo Independent School District take reports of bullying and cyberbullying seriously and have policies and procedures in place to quickly and completely resolve allegations of bullying.School Districts in Texas follow policies and procedures developed in part at Texas State University’s Texas School Safety Center. The Texas Legislature two years ago passed David’s Law which addresses issues “Relating to harassment, bullying and cyberbullying of a public school student or minor and encouraging certain mental health programs for public school students increasing a criminal penalty, providing a civil remedy.”
According to the San Angelo ISD, “Bullying means a single significant act over a pattern of acts by one or more students directed at another student that exploits an imbalance of power and involves engaging in written or verbal expression, expression through electronic means, or physical conduct that satisfies the applicability requirements provided.” Two parts of that definition have to be met: “1. Bullying behavior has occurred that has some effect on the targeted student, or creates an educational environment that is challenging 2. Must also exploit an imbalance of power and interfere with the targeted student’s education or substantially disrupts the school environment.”
Dr. Dethloff said the district cannot comment on individual cases of bullying or cyberbullying because of privacy laws. He did say that an issue was reported during spring break and that issue was immediately addressed by the principal at an elementary school during spring break. Dethloff emphasized that school district employees, principals, and administrators are on duty 24/7 when it relates to safety issues, and bullying can evolve quickly into a school safety concern.
"Bullying can also create an atmosphere in a school where learning is impacted, and our core mission is making sure each and every student is able too learn," Dethloff said.
The San Angelo ISD policy developed by benchmarking David’s Law, “provides for anonymous reporting for students, includes cyberbullying off campus and after school hours, and modifies the parental/guardian notification procedure. It provides flexibility in the disciplinary placement or the expulsion of students engaged in certain types of very serious bullying.”
The San Angelo ISD's policy provides for students to report anonymously via message boxes or to any adult on campus. They also can report any issue to a campus principal who then has a very specific checklist in writing. Each reported incident is investigated rigorously and is documented. There is a seven-page Bullying Investigation Packet which includes a definition of bullying, a checklist for a formal investigations, and parental notification forms that is used by school district personnel.
The policies and procedures to address bullying fall under the management of the superintendent's staff. Last August, the San Angelo ISD initiated program involving seven security initiatives and while bullying isn't specifically mentioned in the seven items, any incident of bullying can escalate to a safety concern, officials said.
Dr. Dethloff says if a parent or guardian is not satisfied with the result of a bullying investigation, there is a grievance procedure. A parent or guardian can appeal a campus level decision to the administration and then onto the school board.
Joe Hyde contributed to this report.
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