A Catalyst for Change
Updated: Oct 27, 2019
This article is part of a series of answers to questions submitted to by the Nashua, NH community leading to the up to the November 5, 2019 municipal election.
Question 1: "What is your stance on bullying in the schools?"
Bullying is unacceptable behavior, but it especially disconcerting when it is repeated without consequence and escalates to violence.
With the exposure of recent events happening in Nashua, it is clear that the current action plans and policies are not protecting our students or our staff. There is little the Board of Education can do retroactively to rectify the damage. But there is hope - we can use these events as a catalyst for change. Here are a few things the Board of Education can do to move forward.
First, the Board is required to approve the disciplinary handbook recommended by the district office. We must have policies in place to stop events from escalating in the future and question policies that are passive in protecting our community. Our teachers and administrators need to be empowered with a clear procedure that allows them to remove intentional non-learners and repeat offenders from the classroom - safely and legally. Secondly, any new procedures will have to take into account the needs of both the bully and the victim. The injured party and the bystanders need to be safe, but the aggressors may also be victims themselves. We must work to find what triggers their negative behavior. We cannot legally or ethically exclude a minor from a public education. However, it is time to challenge state policies and funding for support of specialized staff training and alternative schools for repeat offenders and high risk students.
Thirdly, the Board of Education must vote to put the right leadership in place. Teachers need engaged and supportive administration so that the rules are clear and the chain of command flows appropriately. There must be a clear way to convey this chain of command to the parent community with well-documented action steps. And, the process should not be so grueling that parents lose hope and seek out alternate education options.
There are so many details involved in supporting safety in our schools that it can't be narrowed down to a single bullet point. We need to take input from experienced teachers and staff to make sure any new procedures are reasonable to implement. Then, evaluate the results and be prepared to make modifications when necessary.
One very important thing to remember is that this negative behavior is being displayed by a small percentage of our students. My own children have had a very positive experience with wonderful staff, administrators, and classmates throughout both their elementary and middle school careers. I want to make sure that the strong sense of community we feel extends throughout the city. Our school system has so many positive things that make it shine: quality extracurricular programs, cultural diversity unique to our region of New Hampshire, dedicated teachers and administrators, and, now through this social media storm, we have positive evidence of a passionate parent community ready to be involved. We have the power to make Nashua Public Schools a model district for the state.