BENNINGTON -- The Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union's Policy Drafting Committee discussed several issues at its monthly meeting on Monday, including bullying, school lunches, and public participation at meetings.
After discussing the matter with legal council, the committee has decided not to include adult to child bullying in the SVSU's anti-bullying policy, as had been recommended by a member of the public at a previous meeting. The largest problem, according to SVSU Superintendent Catherine McClure, was the differing standards for children and adults. Instead, the language in the current anti-bullying policy, which has been warned and will go to the districts for approval, will remain referencing only bullying by other students or groups of students.
Instead, the policy committee will look to include guidelines for staff treatment of students in the employee handbook, and are looking into drafting a policy in regards to visitors to the buildings who may harass or bully students.
To aid in that discussion, McClure presented the policies of the Litchfield, N.H., School District, where she had previously been superintendent for five years, in regards to employee-student relations and staff ethics. The committee will consider adopting these, or similar, policies for SVSU. "With the number of employee misconducts that I've seen during my tenure, I think we need to send a message," said McClure.
McClure also said a more defined policy can give additional guidance where there might not be consistency between individual districts policies.
The SVSU's Student Nutrition and Wellness policy has also been under review, as boards across the country are updating their nutrition policies to comply with recent changes to the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act.
One new federal policy that caught the attention of several members of the committee was that a la carte menu items should be priced higher relatively to school lunches, to encourage students to purchase hot lunches. Several committee members, including chairman Leon Johnson, expressed disagreement with the wording of the policy. A la carte menu items, which are strictly regulated by the federal government in terms of caloric content and nutritional information, are made available to purchase for students who may want to supplement lunches brought from home, or who don't like what is being served on a particular day. These menu items are not eligible for the free lunch program.
Finally, McClure brought up the need for a policy to control public participation at SVSU meetings. "We want to make sure that the public is welcome," said McClure, "but that it doesn't become a public forum." McClure and Johnson both noted that too many public comments sometimes make it difficult for boards and committees to get work done.
"There's a need for structure," said Johnson. McClure suggested that the public comments portion of meetings is the appropriate time for members of the public to voice their concerns. The committee will consider creating policy in regards to public comments at their next meeting on Feb. 3.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB