School Board discusses bullying prevention plan recommendations
by Keith Beebe
KANELAND—A month after a mass group of Kaneland parents attended a School Board meeting and forum to voice concerns with bullying issues in the district, School Board members on Monday discussed recommendations, made by members of the group Knights Against Bullying (KAB), for the district’s bullying prevention plan.
A district-distributed work update and response states that the School Board has set bullying prevention as a goal in the Superintendent Plan of Work, and that it is “under the strand of support systems and has a reporting date of April for the Board of Education.”
The plan also designates assignment of a prevention coordinator and gathering of a task force. Dr. Sarah Mumm, director of educational services K-5, and Erika Schlichter, director of educational services 6-12, will coordinate the work group revising the district’s current bullying prevention plan. Once revisions are finalized, focus will move to student services.
In terms of the task force, the work update and response guide states that the work group will consist of administrators, teachers, related service staff, transportation staff and a community member. The group will target goals identified this fall and discussed at the forum on Sept. 24, and “will receive feedback and input as appropriate from a variety of advisory groups,” such as the administrative team, Citizens Advisory Committee, student and community advisory groups.
Kaneland Superintendent Jeff Schuler said a prevention coordinator has yet to be identified, but Mumm and Schlichter will faciliate the task force’s work.
“The Board of Education and Administration remain committed to providing a safe and respectful school environment,” he said. “The discussion last night affirmed the plan and process to improve upon our current bullying prevention efforts.”
Schuler said that a heavy emphasis was placed on intervention strategies during the 2011-12 school year. This year, the task force will focus attention on prevention efforts, community and staff engagement, and K-12 alignment.
Kaneland administrators previously met with KAB members on Oct. 9. Schuler called the meeting “very productive.”
“(We discussed) current bullying prevention efforts and specific ways we could partner together in our efforts to address a topic that is clearly very important to all of us,” he said. “One area in particular that we spoke about was community engagement and how the KAB group can play an integral role in that area.”
A few members of KAB, including Leigh Ann Reusche, attended the meeting on Monday. Reusche read a prepared statement to the School Board and administration during public comment.
“Our main reason for addressing you tonight is to thank you and encourage you to continue to reach out to our Kaneland community as you move forward with the task force,” Reusche said. “Thank you for hearing our message and taking it seriously. It’s hard to hear about people’s anger and frustration. It took a lot of courage and strength for people to come forward with their own experiences. We are not always the most popular crowd in the room.”
Reusche said it also took a lot of courage for district administration to put together the task force, open the bullying discussion and talk about ways to improve the climate of Kaneland schools.
“It was the right thing to do, and we applaud you for taking this important first step,” she said.
Board member Tony Valente during the meeting said he is standing up for bullied students, and that he feels the perception out there is that Kaneland is doing nothing in regard to bullying prevention.
Valente also said he’s “holding people accountable” in regard to fixing bullying issues in the Kaneland District, directing his words toward members of administration in attendance.