As the new school year kicks off, so do new policies regarding bullying and hazing.
In the 2013 student code of conduct, additions have been made to help protect students from aggressive behavior.
“The bullying aspect is the most significant,” Jerry Smith, director of Child Welfare and Attendance for St. Charles Parish Public Schools, said.
The new guidelines regarding bullying bring the school district into compliance with the Tesa Middlebrook Anti-Bullying Act. The act was named after a Pointe Coupee Parish student who hung herself from the gym bleachers in the spring semester of 2012.
Smith said the school system started implementing changes to the code of conduct last year, but they were not fully adopted until this year.
“The law is very specific. We had to define what bullying was, specific acts. We also had to address the impact of bullying, that this doesn’t affect those who are bullied, but also bystanders. We also had to address bystanders being active reporters,” she said.
Under the new code of conduct, the school system has added the shunning of other students from activities as a form of bullying.
Smith said the changes should also reassure parents that school administrators are following up on reports of bullying.
“We also wanted to notify parents that any acts of bullying would be reported and appropriate actions would be taken,” she said.
In addition to changes regarding bullying, the school system - for the first time - also addressed hazing.
Under the new code, students are prohibited from engaging in activities to initiate students into school or extracurricular organizations through physical, mental or psychological abuse.
The policy covers students from any harmful acts that may take place in schools, school related locations such as bus stops, or in the greater community.
Smith said there have not been reports of hazing in St. Charles Parish Public Schools, but the Discipline Committee felt the change should be made proactively, before they encountered any potential issue.
“At least one administrator just asked if we thought it was time to put something in there regarding hazing,” she said. Under the new code, students who may not experience hazing themselves, but know of it, are required to report to school officials.
“We also put something in there that if a student knows about it, we want students to be aware that they have a responsibility to report it. Not necessarily that we are going to make it punitive,” she said.
In addition to new rules regarding bullying and hazing, the code of conduct also addresses the searching of student vehicles.
Smith said while the school system has always had the right to search student vehicles, they never had the rule in writing before.
“We’ve always had the right to search vehicles in parking lots, but we wanted to be proactive,” she said. “As a society people question things more. In my area, when I explain a procedure the first thing they ask me is to show them the procedure in writing.”