School district responds to questions about approach to bullying

John Rohlf, Staff Writer
Posted 7/11/22

In response to community complaints about how bullying is disciplined at Wright City R-II schools, district officials last week outlined how administrators handle incidents.

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School district responds to questions about approach to bullying

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In response to community complaints about how bullying is disciplined at Wright City R-II schools, district officials last week outlined how administrators handle incidents.

Assistant Superintendent Doug Smith outlined the district’s bullying policy at the June school board meeting, with Superintendent Chris Berger noting recent community frustration around when discipline is assigned and whether it fits into the bullying policy.

Every Missouri school district is required by state statute to have an anti-bullying policy. The policy requires districts to create a procedure for reporting possible bullying incidents.

In order for an incident to be considered bullying in the Wright City R-II School District, it must be intentional, repeated and include a power imbalance. If any of the three categories are not found to be part of the incident, the bullying complaint is unsubstantiated. The incident could still include discipline, just not under the bullying policy, Smith stressed.

Smith confirmed the Wright City district has a bullying incident report form available in district offices and online. Counselors and administrators can receive potential bullying reports, Smith said. The administrators are trained to conduct investigations.

After a report is filed, the administrator has two days to start the investigation, Smith said. The individual or individuals who filed the report are notified the investigation has begun. The administrator determines whether the claim is substantiated or unsubstantiated. Assistant Superintendent Jeremy Way serves as the district compliance officer. Way reviews the administrator’s initial determination before a final conclusion is made and discipline is initiated.

The reporting party is informed if the complaint is substantiated or unsubstantiated. They do not tell the complaining party or parties anything about the discipline because this gets into private confidential records, Smith stressed.

“If that is substantiated, the administrator obviously assigns a discipline consequence for bullying based on what our handbook and policy say,” Smith said. “Those consequences are not shared with the complaining party. If the bullying is unsubstantiated, a discipline consequence may still be required.”

Board member Erin Williams noted the elementary schools’ success with the RULER bullying prevention program. She asked if the RULER program could be used in the secondary schools or if it is geared towards the elementary schools.

Smith said they are not specifically implementing it at the secondary schools, but believes the district is seeing the positive effects of the program at the middle school. He cited declining discipline numbers the past three to four years at the middle school.

“We hope they’re used to that mindset a little bit and that permeates up,” Smith said. “We’ve looked into it a little at the secondary. A lot of that deals with some of the behavior management stuff. We tried to address some of that with our recent policy change and taking a look at how we do our student discipline in terms of restorative practices, which are a big part of the RULER initiative.”

No action was taken on the agenda item at last month’s meeting.

Wright City School District, Bullying

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