The Palo Alto Board of Education Tuesday effectively gave its stamp of approval to the district's revamped bullying prevention policy, adding it to the consent calendar reserved for items routinely approved -- for its June 3 meeting.
The board's discussion of the proposed policy, which has been developed over the past 18 months, focused on making sure the proper tools are provided to school administrators to evaluate alleged cases of bullying.
One key issue the board discussed related to whether the student with the bullying complaint belongs to a legally protected class, such as a person with disabilities, or is non-protected. The proposed policy only covers cases of bullying of non-protected-status students.
"One of the things that we struggled with was how can we make sure when a complaint of an alleged bullying situation comes in that it's fairly vetted on whether it's a protected class or not and the people that are doing that vetting principals and their staff have the proper tools so they can be consistent and they can be fair," board Vice President Melissa Baten Caswell said.
Superintendent Kevin Skelly responded that the district has provided "lots of training" so far on identifying students who fall into protected-class status and will continue to do more once the policy is approved.
The board in February approved policies for how the district will respond to complaints of bullying from protected-class students. Those complaints are to be handled by district-level administrators. Under the proposed policy for non-protected-status students, school staff -- rather than district staff -- would investigate the complaints.
Other board members also expressed concern that each bullying complaint that is addressed under the new policy be properly documented and passed along to the district level.
"I just think there should be something about that documentation being passed along to the student-services coordinator or something because it is important that we have a district-level understanding," board member Dana Tom said. "It would be sensible to have a report on that. ... We can always ask for reports on whatever we like; the more important thing to me to ensure we get in here is that it gets communicated."
Skelly suggested modifying the language to indicate copies of all documentation be passed on to the coordinator of student services to compile district data.
Board President Barb Mitchell and other members asked how quickly the necessary resources and tools for staff, parents and students will be available after the policy is put into place. Skelly said if the board approves the proposal on June 3, information can be put online as soon as the next day.