District develops new anti-bullying policy

POULSBO — One year before the North Kitsap School District is required by law to have an anti-bullying policy in place, they have one. And they’re proud of what it says.

The school board passed the policy at its last meeting, and is happy with the fact that it is based on teaching respect rather than punishing wrongdoing.

“It’s a positive rather than negative spin on bullying,” said Dixie Husser, who served on the equity advisory committee that drafted the policy. “We wanted to teach (the students) the concept of respect, rather than ‘Thou shalt not.’”

Students will still be disciplined for bullying behavior, Husser said, but the district hopes to decrease bullying instead by instilling respectful values.

To that end, students in different grades will take part in a respect curriculum, which presents scenarios and asks students what they would do if confronted with such incidents.

The curriculum is tailored to different age groups. The program presented to younger students (K-3) focuses more on ensuring their personal safety, rather than making relatively complex moral decisions. As the students get older (such as those in grades 4-6), the curriculum asks them to make decisions on how they would act if they took part in — or witnessed — bullying.

The curriculum for older students, Husser said, even asks if they felt right about witnessing, bullying and doing nothing.

“Most of the time, kids don’t know what to do,” she said, “so they just watch it.”

The committee is still assembling curriculum for junior high and high school students, although some schools have already begun teaching respect policies. For example, Kingston Junior High has a “Standing in the Gap” program that it uses to teach kids respectful actions.

The 15-member equity committee was composed of teachers, administrators, and even a pair of high school age students. They wanted to pass an anti-bullying standard, Husser said, even before the Washington State Legislature passed a statewide bill that requires schools to formulate such a procedure.

She said the policy will be put in the equity handbook that is available at each school, and a liaison from each school will be trained in it.

The handbook is available in all school libraries and offices, and Husser said several students sought it out last year to explore how to deal with equality and harassment issues.

“The word is getting out,” she said.

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