Oxford Hills leaders address bullying

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PARIS — School Administrative District 17 directors were told Monday night that steps are in place to address bullying and the toughest cases are those involving cyberbullying.

“There is no escape,” Superintendent Rick Colpitts said of bullying outside of school through social media platforms.

Principals representing the elementary, middle and high schools in Oxford Hills spent about an hour detailing the programs at each school and answering questions on the number of cases, informing students how to share their concerns with staff and the consequences for those who bully.

“Once we get involved, it really does seem to get resolved,” Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School Principal Ted Moccia said. He said many of the cases involve simple unkindness.

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“It’s about how are you going to make it right,” he said. “We take it extremely seriously.”

Although the levels of bullying may differ depending on the age group, the administrators said there are common threads each school uses in its bullying-prevention programs.

At Oxford Hills Middle School, Principal Paul Bickford said, “It’s about creating a school atmosphere that students can feel comfortable in.”

Efforts such as the creation of a Civil Rights Team and the Kudo program, where students are routinely given positive reinforcement, are methods to keep students on a positive track.

At the elementary schools, Principals Tiffany Karnes and Mary Lou Peterson also talked about creating a positive school atmosphere and the restorative efforts that are necessary to repair damage done between students.

“We develop a bond with the students,” Peterson said.

At Oxford Elementary School there are methods such as the “Buddy Bench” where students can sit if they need a “buddy” to talk to, Karnes said.

Colpitts said that because of the strict criteria that define bullying, he receives only three to seven cases a year that meet that threshold, but every day there are probably varying degrees of bullying going on in the schools. He said he had great respect for the work the administrators and their staff do to intervene in cases of bullying.

In other news, Colpitts told directors that a recent survey identified directors’ top areas of interest in spending extra school funding if it were available.

The top four are: providing interventionists in grades 3 though 6; replacing the high school roof and HVAC upgrades; implementing a single bus run which would mean a later start time; and providing psychological services in regular education and a social worker at every school.

Colpitts said at the Dec. 4 board meeting he will provide an overview of budgeting since 2009. After that meeting, the board will hear about grades 3 through 6 interventionists, and in January and early February they will discuss the other tops “wants.”

Feedback will be used as the superintendent develops the budget for the next fiscal year.

Colpitts said he will provide a cost estimate for the full implementation of each of the four highlighted programs, and the Budget Committee will receive the same information.

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net

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