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Superintendent switches position on bullying policy

Superintendent Kevin Skelly has recently pro- posed that instead of approving a general bullying policy, the district will split the bullying policies into two tiers. The first tier would consist of the “protected class,” which includes bullying regard- ing sexual orientation, disabilities, gender and race. The second tier deals with the bullying that doesn’t involve people from the “protected class” and therefore adheres to the “average student population.”

According to Skelly, school staff members have said that the confusing procedures are complicat- ing even the smallest bullying cases. “We want a process that is simple, that people can follow and that works,” Skelly said. “First and foremost, we take care of the victim, but also guard the rights of the student accused of bullying.” Skelly affirms there needs to be a dramatic update to several rules in order to protect all students. This will be later discussed in a meeting scheduled at the end of the month. “The first thing is to take care of what we have, and that will bring us up to full compliance with the law,” Skelly said.

The Gunn administration doesn’t believe that Skelly’s reversal will affect its approach to bully- ing. “Whatever the system is, even if it’s a two- tiered system, I think we’ll just follow what those procedures are,” Principal Katya Villalobos said. “We’ll do it as long as we know that the idea of the procedures and the policies are to protect the stu- dents.” According to Villalobos, the main concern is how to use the new system. “[Skelly] obviously supports the safety of our students and obviously we all do,” Villalobos said. “So how do you align that into board policy and procedures?”

Villalobos believes that Gunn already had dis- ciplinary actions that have kept the school largely free of bullying. “We didn’t call it bullying policies at the time,” Villalobos said. “I think that’s where people are confused; they don’t realize that we already have procedures in place.” According to Villalobos, the way the administration handles

each case depends on what the victim would report. “It would be me or any one of the ad- ministrators who would get the facts, who would investigate,” Villalobos said. The se- verity of the circumstance also affects what disciplinary actions the school needs to take. If the bully were a first-timer, a school admin- istrator would give an official warning. This policy was in action before a family in Palo Alto decided to file a claim with the Office for Civil Rights, sparking the recent proposals.

Skelly still believes that with the new changes, the administration cannot just take care of the issue at a disciplinary level, it must also make sure that it gives the required sup- port to the victims. Villalobos feels similarly. “A good teacher and administrator will follow whatever procedures are in place to make sure that the student is helped, healthy, safe and wants to be at school,” Villalobos said. The district staff has recently been trained to handle the bullying cases appropriately. Skelly believes that the policies are not yet ready and will need much more revision be- fore being presented to the board at the end of January.

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