NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk school officials are considering adopting two new policies designed to thwart teachers and administrators from bullying students, and also to end the distribution of demeaning or sexually explicit messages among students or educators.
The sweeping policies grew out of a desire among school officials to end the disturbances that can arise from students sharing inappropriate messages or images amongst themselves, and also avoid the potentially damaging impact that adult bullying can have on children.
The policies are being proposed by the Board of Education’s Policy Committee, which is chaired by board member Steve Colarossi, and would still require full board approval before they could be implemented. Earlier this week, the committee unanimously voted to move the proposals to the full board for a vote.
For more than one year, the Policy Committee "heard significant anecdotal recitations of the lasting impact that staff bullying of students can have on the students," said Colarossi in a statement.
“Although the Policy Committee did not find that staff bullying of students is a pervasive problem in our schools, the Committee did agree that the harm is so significant that action was required to prevent such instances regardless of how limited they may (or may not) be,” he added.
In both the anti-bullying policy for educators, and the explicit messaging, which would include "sexting," among students, Norwalk’s Center for Youth Leadership helped craft the language with the board subcommittee.
Colarossi said the sharing of inappropriate messages, images and videos is “more commonplace than many of us would have imagined,” which led to the decision to propose the policy. Violating either policy could lead to disciplinary action by the school system.
“It is often the result of an impetuous decision and is rarely intended to be widely distributed,” said Colarossi. “Also, given the ease with which software is available to allow individuals to alter photos (such as ‘Photoshopping’ one person’s face onto an explicit image of another), the Policy Committee recognized that the creation and distribution of such altered images could also prove disruptive to schools and demeaning to the subjects of those images.”
The proposed adult anti-bullying policy reads in part:
“The Board of Education is committed to eliminating bullying. The Board of Education recognizes that, to further the goal of eliminating bullying, it is important for all administrators, teachers, certified staff and non-certified staff members to model positive behavior to one another, students, parents and guardians. Furthermore, the Board of Education recognizes the importance that adult conduct has on the creation of safe and educationally-sound school climates. Therefore, any behavior which would constitute ‘bullying’ under Policy 5131.91 (as the same may be amended by state statute or Board of Education policy) if perpetrated by one student against another student shall be prohibited if perpetrated by any administrator, teacher, certified staff or non-certified staff member against any other administrator, teacher, certified staff or non-certified staff member or against any student, parent or guardian.”
The proposed prohibition on distributing demeaning images policy reads in part:
“The Norwalk Board of Education recognizes that the widespread use of social media and portable electronic devices facilitates the distribution of photographic and video images (regardless of the format or means of distribution), and that certain of those images depict their subjects in a compromising, demeaning, socially unacceptable and/or sexually explicit manner (such photographic and video images are referred to in this policy as ‘Impermissible Content’). The Norwalk Board of Education also recognizes that the distribution of Impermissible Content among students and employees of the Norwalk Public Schools can be used as a tool for bullying of students and employees, and can create disturbances and distractions in our schools, and, as such, is antagonistic to the educational mission of the Norwalk Public Schools.
Therefore, the sharing, distribution, publication, displaying, electronically posting or sending, or other communicating, of Impermissible Content which depicts a student, administrator, teacher, certified staff or non-certified staff member by or among any student, administrator, teacher, certified staff or non-certified staff member, or by and among any individuals within any school, is expressly prohibited.”
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