GASD Board hears concerns about bullying and hate speech

Two parents expressed concerns at Monday evening’s Gettysburg Area School District school board meeting about the lack of administrative policy and action to protect students from hate speech and in-person or cyber-bullying at district schools.

Jenine Weaver, who has four children in district schools, said that “hate speech is running rampant,” particularly slurs aimed at LGBTQ students and students of color, including, she said, frequent uses of the “n-word” and insults such as “cotton picker.”

GASD Middle School

Of particular concern, said Weaver, is the lack of policy. “Administrators tell me their hands are tied. Hate speech isn’t prohibited in the student handbook.” She said the typical punishment for the “n-word” is lunch detention. “They treat it as cursing and as bullying if it’s repeated,” she said. Weaver said the student handbook needs to be updated before the next school year. “They also need to educate students about the harmful effects of hate speech.”

Cristina Clark, a parent and middle school teacher, also expressed concern about bullying and cyberbullying at the middle school.  Clark said school administrators feel somewhat helpless because language to implement the section on bullying in school board policy 249 has never been developed.

The relevant section in the policy says that “the Superintendent or designee shall develop administrative regulations to implement this policy.”

But Clark said that both middle school principal Nancy Herb and District Superintendent Jason Perrin had told her in writing that no such regulations exist. “It is of great concern that the superintendent is not following current board policy, especially a policy intended to address bullying and cyberbullying, which are rampant throughout the school district,” she said.

Clark said the middle school student handbook currently defines bullying and cyberbullying but does not prohibit it, and asked the board to ensure this is fixed for the next school year. “The bullying, cyberbullying, and threats issue is pervasive and it’s partly because of the lack of enforcement by school administrators of the school district’s own policies. I really hope that we can use this as a learning experience and improve the way these situations are handled in the future. Hopefully we can avoid a situation that may result in physical harm, including self-inflicted harm, to any student or staff member,” she said.

Contacted after the meeting, Perrin made the following statements via email:

“Administrators may use information in board policy or student handbooks (which align with board policy) when addressing student behaviors at their discretion. I am confident that our administrators investigate any matters that are specifically brought to their attention. Obviously, the goal of any disciplinary process/conversation with a student is to modify/change behavior and educate the student in order for them to make better choices moving forward. A wide array of consequences may be utilized at the discretion of the administrator to meet the variables of a given situation.”

“Each building reviews pertinent handbook information with its students at the appropriate developmental level each year. Parents/Students also sign off that the information has been reviewed and understood. I have confidence in our building administrators that appropriate conversations occur with students as part of the normal disciplinary process, and in simply building positive relationships with all students.”

Funds approved for HVAC design

The board voted 8-1 (with AmyBeth Hodges dissenting) to authorize an expenditure of $820,000 for Trane Heating and Air Conditioning to complete design and budgeting services for the proposed project to replace the HVAC, roofs, and other building systems at Gettys and Lincoln elementary schools.

This project has been before the board for months and the $34 million pricetag and open-ended statement of work have aroused concerns from some local residents. The agenda item included a detailed explanation of what was and wasn’t included in the board’s decision.

Board President Ken Hassinger and board member Tim Seigman both took pains to clarify that the vote was not committing to any construction.

Hodges spoke against the expenditure.

leon reed 1

Leon Reed, freelance reporter, is a former US Senate staff member, defense consultant, and history teacher. He is a seven year resident of Gettysburg, where he writes military history and explores the park and the Adams County countryside. He is the publisher at Little Falls Books, chaired the Adams County 2020 Census Complete Count Committee and is on the board of SCCAP and the local Habitat for Humanity chapter. He and his wife, Lois, have 3 children, 3 cats, and 5 grandchildren.

 

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Cole Hoffen
Cole Hoffen
1 year ago

My daughter was bullied by coaches and other athletes because her mother is a lesbian. They were protected by administrators. Not much changes, because those in power don’t want it to change. If you are not a straight WASP born and raised here, you will be unwelcome by most in red Adams County.

Beth Farnham
Beth Farnham
1 year ago

Great job Jenine! Your speech addresses an issue that impacts the whole community. <3

Ralph Duquette
Ralph Duquette
1 year ago

Parents say that building administrators claim there are no policies with respect to “hate speech” aka bullying and racially charged language? Or that the Board Policy does not prohibit bullying? Balderdash. Board Policy 249* addresses bullying: Purpose   The Board is committed to providing a safe, positive learning environment for district students. The Board recognizes that bullying creates an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, detracts from the safe environment necessary for student learning, and may lead to more serious violence. Therefore, the Board prohibits bullying by district students.   Definitions   Bullying means an intentional electronic, written, verbal or physical… Read more »

Susan Cipperly
Susan Cipperly
1 year ago

This is an important topic for the health and well-being of our youth and our teachers, and the GASD needs to address it ASAP. Have they not been learning anything from incidents happening around the country ?

Debra Baker
Debra Baker
1 year ago

If the district hasn’t been able to come up with student/handbook wording to prohibit hate speech and bullying, I’m sure the superintendent could make a few phone calls to peers around the country to copy theirs, You can’t let this slide.

Ralph Duquette
Ralph Duquette
1 year ago
Reply to  Debra Baker

The GASD Board Policies posted on its website specifically state that bullying is prohibited. The question now is: how are building and district administrators going to handle complaints re bullying – especially racially charged bullying – moving forward? Board Policies require: “The Superintendent or designee shall develop administrative regulations to implement this policy” and – “The Superintendent or designee shall ensure that this policy and administrative regulations are reviewed annually with students and appear in student handbooks where they exist.[1]” Why then is a claim made that no such regs exist? Perhaps it is time for someone to RTKL those… Read more »

Donald Marritz
Donald Marritz
1 year ago

Great reporting by Leon Reed

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