FARMINGTON — The Regional School Unit 9 board of directors has directed members of the board’s policy committee to include rules against bullying, hazing and harassment in a draft version of a policy governing student conduct.
The revised code-of-conduct policy for extracurricular and co-curricular activities for middle and high school students was given a first reading May 8. It takes two readings before the board adopts a policy.
The policy, if approved, would hold students to standards for drug, tobacco and alcohol use and for bullying, hazing and harassment. Currently, there are consequences for drug, tobacco and alcohol use.
Separate policies already exist that cover bullying, hazing and harassment as well as drugs, alcohol and tobacco.
Prior to the request by board members to add bullying, hazing and harassment to the draft policy, Mt. Blue sophomore Valerianne Hinkley addressed the school board at its May 8 meeting.
Hinkley told of having been a victim of bullying, both as a student and an athlete. She said the taunts and other hurtful conduct by others sometimes made her cry and caused her to miss school.
The Wilton teenager decided to take a stance by increasing awareness of bullying and promoting an anti-bullying campaign that includes posters, positive words on Post-it notes and having bracelets made with the message “Be Bold Stand Up to Bullying.”
In April, she won the Miss Teen Maine International competition with the same platform.
“Bullying is still happening in our schools,” Hinkley said. “I want to make a difference. One of the biggest things I learned is we define ourselves and cannot let others define us.”
“You’re someone who has risen above being a victim,” Superintendent Tom Ward said.
Hinkley’s mother, Jenny Bouchard-Young, also addressed the board. She said it was heartbreaking to have her daughter be a victim of bullying.
Complaints were made to the administration, but no report was registered with the Maine Department of Education.
Bouchard-Young said bullying is hardly limited to RSU 9. Other school systems are faced with the same problem.
“All schools are struggling with this,” Ward said.
Valerianne Hinkley of Wilton, a sophomore at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington, has discussed bullying and her campaign to stand up to it with the Regional School Unit 9 school board. (File photo)