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USD 431 parents concerned about bullying
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USD 431 Cardinals

Despite years of classroom instruction devoted to curbing bullying among school-aged children, problems persist, leaving some parents wondering what can be done to protect their children on the bus and and at school. Monday night, four Hoisington parents brought their concerns to the USD 431 Board of Education. Complaints ranged from the need to block students from inappropriate internet usage, sexting, and social and physical bullying on school buses.
At the beginning of the semester, USD 431 provided Chromebooks to each student at the middle and high school. Middle school students check theirs out in the morning and turn them in at the end of the school day. High school students are allowed to bring theirs home.
Since then, one parent has noted his child has visited websites he feels are inappropriate, and demanded the district either do a better job of blocking access, or he will be requesting his child not have a computer and instead have books assigned to do her work from.
“I know as parents we need to step up to the plate and take control, but I can’t take control if she’s allowed to do this when she walks into the school,” he said. “I know if I can block this stuff on the tv, I know this stuff can be blocked.
Another parent complained her daughter was being harassed by a boy sexting her through her Chromebook and her smartphone.
“We do not have internet at home, so this is definitely happening at school,” she said.
Superintendent Bill Lowry thanked them for sharing their concerns, and assured them he would look into the matter with District Technology Coordinator Kerry Mooney, who was not present at the meeting.
Lowry responded to The Great Bend Tribune Tuesday, stating that the district is investigating these concerns and will he will be calling parents individually as soon as they have answers. He did state that social media and other unauthorized websites were inaccessible from the district’s network, but that does not extend outside of school grounds.
But concerns did not stop there. The second parent, a mother of four with one child in each school in the district, reported bullying of each of her children both at school and on the bus going to and coming home from school.
“My eight year old daughter is being bullied by a high schooler on the bus,” she said. “I’ve talked with the parent and the bus driver, and something needs to be done.”
She noted that while there is a camera on the bus, it is limited to monitoring riders from the head up, so pulling hair and below the seat behavior is not documented. Other behavior, like kissing and touching and foul language is also common, and inappropriate for younger children to be exposed to, she said.
Her youngest, attending Lincoln elementary, has been targeted because of his disability, and her middle school aged child is socially bullied both in school and on the bus by an older child.
A third parent identified her family as interracial and growing up in a bilingual household. She reported ongoing bullying of her children and others associated with her children because of their use of both English and Spanish and of their chosen way of dressing. She’s asked her kids to ignore it, but the bullying is ongoing.
“We are tired of putting up with it,” she said. “We’ve asked for assistance through the school, we’ve met with the principal and Mr. Kaiser, the school counselor, and we were asked to leave the school. If something isn’t done, I may have to consult a lawyer,” she said.
She simply wants her children to have a nice school experience she said. Board President Dean Stoskopf thanked her for letting them know what was happening, and that the board would discuss what could be done. She thanked him and asked that they let her know what they come up with so she and other parents aren’t left wondering.
A fourth parent then addressed the board, referring to a letter he had sent prior to the meeting.
“It is my responsibility as a parent when things don’t go right to communicate with you. he said. “I appreciate you taking my concerns into consideration.”

Capital outlay and voting
The board then returned to agenda items. Lowry presented a capital outlay resolution for the third time, and it was quickly and unanimously approved. The resolution will provide more flexibility to transfer funds between capital outlay and the general fund.
Changes to the voting plan were also addressed. Lowry visited with Donna Zimmerman, Barton County Clerk, who informed him that if the district votes to change elections from district to at large, the plan must be voted on no more than 60 days and no less than 45 days from general election. Therefore, he recommended the board move the topic to old business and revisit it at the September board meeting. If approved, the new voting plan will take effect then, and will be in place in time for the 2017 election of board members.

Other items of discussion and actions taken included:
Approval of two travel requests: one, from St. Johns church for a two-day trip to Denver, the second, from the USD 431 eighth grade class for a non-school sponsored trip to Wichita in April to visit Urban Air, and return to Cardinal Lanes for bowling. Both requests include an agreement to cover costs of fuel and a driver.
Approved the 2016-2017 school calendar as presented.
Heard an administrative report from high school Principal Joel Mason. Testing is underway.
Heard the legislative report from Lowry. He will accompany pages to Topeka this week and visit with Edmonds, Waymaster and Huelskamp prior to the legislative coffee to be held at the Activity Center on Saturday morning, March 19.

Stoskopf requested the board go into a 45-minute executive session for the purpose of discussing non-elected personnel. Upon returning to open session, the following actions were taken:
Accepted resignations from Andrea Willesden, teachers aid, effective at the end of the school year, and from Stephanie Demuth, band instructor, effective at the end of the school year.
Terminated Robert Blase, middle school custodian, effective immediately.
Employed Bruce Cooper as Summer Driver’s Ed Program 2016 instructor.
Employed Adaline Billinger, high school instructor, for the 2016-2017 school year.
Extended contracts for Administrators by one year.

Following this, the meeting was adjourned. The next USD 431 Board of Education meeting will be on April 4 at 7 p.m. at the District Office.