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Archuleta wants talks on bullying policy

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Local school officials plan to dive into a discussion about student bullying and discipline once new Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools Superintendent Catherine Edmonds begins her duties in the district in a couple of weeks.

During the ECPPS Board of Education’s committee meetings Monday afternoon, George Archuleta told fellow board members he wanted to have a discussion about student bullying and disciplinary policies that deal with bullying.

Specifically, Archuleta questioned whether it’s appropriate to punish both parties involved in a fight if one has been subjected to repeated bullying and is acting in self-defense.

“A person can only take so much,” Archuleta said.

Archuleta said later he was not requesting the discussion in response to a specific incident.

Currently ECPPS’ policy on fights that involve two students “that do not cause serious bodily injury but do disrupt the educational process” are considered a Level IV offense and call for both students to be suspended from school for a period of two to seven days. The handbook states that “mitigating and aggravating factors (can) apply.”

Board of Education member Denauvo Robinson agreed that bullying is something the school board should talk about. He said officials need to look at the current policy on bullying, how it’s being administered and whether there’s anything else school officials need to do to prevent bullying.

Robinson said it’s important to study the issue thoroughly, and that includes gathering information from teachers, principals and students who have observed bullying first-hand.

“They may have some insights that some of us that are not on the day-to-day scene may not have,” Robinson said.

ECPPS officials also need look at what other school districts are doing to address bullying, he said.

But Robinson said before he would support changing anything in the school district’s current policy related to bullying or other disciplinary matters, he first wants to see if proposed changes are supported by research. If research shows a need for a change then he would be willing to support it, he said.

The definition of “bullying” employed by ECPPS encompasses “verbal taunts, name-calling and put-downs, epithets, derogatory comments or slurs, lewd propositions, exclusion from peer groups, extortion of money or possessions, implied or stated threats, assault, impeding or blocking movement, offensive touching, or any physical interference with normal work or movement, and visual insults, such as derogatory posters or cartoons.”

According to the ECPPS student handbook, the district “expressly prohibits bullying, discrimination and harassment and will promptly investigate all related claims.” And according to the district’s policy, staff members are required to “report immediately” to an administrator “any information regarding unusual or suspicious behavior or acts of violence, harassment, or bullying.”

In addition, students and parents are encouraged to submit complaints about bullying, discrimination or harassment to principals or assistant principals. Bullying complaints may also be submitted anonymously on the district’s website at www.ecpps.k12.nc.us. The district’s policy is to investigate all complaints “promptly.”

Robinson noted that Superintendent-elect Catherine Edmonds will be on the job soon and school officials will need to hear her thoughts on the issue of student bulling and discipline.

“I look forward to her input,” he said.

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