Ray-Pec BOE reviews bully prevention program

Special to the Democrat MissourianApril 4, 2014 

Board Member Kyle Gillespie, center, congratulates Maddi Brusick and Joel Miles during student recognitions at the March 27 Ray-Pec School Board meeting. After nine years of service to the board, this was Gillespie’s last meeting as a district representative.

ELLEN PARSON/SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT MISSOURIAN

How much do Raymore-Peculiar students and parents care about the school’s anti-bullying efforts? Based on the large turnout at the March 27 board of education meeting for the district’s bully prevention update, it’s clearly a hot-button.

Raymore resident Jeff Adams took the podium first, expressing his thoughts on the current bullying policy as well as the results from a 2013 district survey of Ray-Pec high school students.

“One of the things we need to deal with is the perception that to defend yourself from physical attack would result in a suspension,” he said. “We need to make sure that physical escalation beyond words is never acceptable.”

Adams also expressed concern over what he characterized as an “elevated level of problems” at the intermediate school and middle school.

“I think we need to develop a plan to address these specifically with parents and students,” said Adams, who offered his services as a volunteer hall monitor. “The survey showed a lot of ‘neutral’ results. To me, anything that rates less than ‘strongly agree’ we haven’t done enough.”

Assistant Superintendent Jay Harris and Director of Student Services & Secondary Education Kristel Barr shared results of this survey with the board as well as provided an overview of the program, discussed areas for improvement, and presented future goals.

According to the survey, 65 percent of students agreed or strongly agreed that they "feel safe at school," 27 percent gave a neutral response, and 8 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed with that statement.

Following a brief statement by School Board candidate Melinda Houdyshell, who reiterated the importance of reviewing and revising the program, if needed, Tonya Long, who is also running for school board, expressed disappointment over the current policy.

“I don’t see where parents are involved,” said Long, who also raised several questions about the IB program. “For example, I don’t recognize when the parent is contacted when someone is accused of bullying or is the victim. If you don’t involve the parents, you’re going to fail in everything you do.”

In their bully prevention update presentation, Harris and Barr assured the group that school officials take bullying very seriously. "Ray-Pec is not immune to bullying issues," said Harris. "We will always focus on improving our efforts and adjusting when necessary."

He spoke about the four main components of an effective anti-bullying program, including education, prevention, reporting, and response. According to Harris, one of the greatest obstacles schools today face on this front is the new challenge of social media.

“Like all schools, we have a lot of things happening in social media that at some point in time tend to rear their ugly heads at school, causing us to intervene,” he said.

Some of the key factors for success, said Harris, are consistency and diligence.

“We can’t just put one system in place and then step back passively,” he said. “We have to have an ongoing dialog. One of the ways we can improve is intervening early and often so we can address bullying on a proactive basis.”

He feels implementing an anonymous online reporting tool is one step in that direction. Part of the School Messenger communications program, a new Quick Tip anonymous reporting tool will be launched in April. Quick Tips, which allows students to send an anonymous or identified message to school administrators, will be available online to students and parents any time day or night.

In student recognitions, Maddi Brusick was honored for her all-state swimming accolades, finishing 14th in the 50-yard freestyle. Sharing the spotlight with Maddi was fifth grader Joel Miles, who was recognized for winning the Cass County Spelling Bee. He will go on to represent the county at the national spelling bee in Washington, D.C. in May.

Following informational presentations of the A+ Program and Federal Title Program by Barr and a Technology Program review by Director Ryan Gooding, the board made quick work of several action items, voting in favor of personnel recommendations, surplus property declarations and bids, voluntary insurance benefits, a renewed athletic training services agreement with Belton Regional Medical Center (effective Aug. 10), the International Baccalaureate application, February transportation rider numbers and Active Shooter and Intruder Response Training for all Ray-Pec staff for the 2014-2015 school year at an estimated total cost of $21,000.

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