The Newport-Mesa school board has adopted an anti-bullying policy, one it hopes will prevent school violence of the kind that rocked Santana High School in San Diego County last week.
Now officials in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District must determine how to enact the policy so youngsters can feel safe without parents and students fearing that their rights will be violated.
By a 5-1 vote, board members decided Tuesday night to add a section on bullying to the district’s discipline policy, known informally as the zero-tolerance policy. The policy could mandate the same suspensions for bullying as for bringing a knife or a beer to school, but would be more likely to result in counseling or parent conferences, said Robert Barbot, superintendent of the Orange County school district.
After a student was choked by another boy at Corona del Mar High School last spring, parents requested the policy and helped write it. Though the education code already addresses most infractions covered under the new bullying policy, parents and administrators wanted to send a message that such actions will not be tolerated.
The process began long before Charles “Andy” Williams, who was reportedly bullied relentlessly, walked onto his Santee campus with a gun, killing two and wounding 13. Parents said they hope the policy will prevent similar incidents by stopping bullying before students think they must strike back with firearms.
Administrators will spend the next eight weeks developing with guidelines to define bullying and to let teachers and principals know what to do about it, Barbot said. Suspension or expulsion would be a last resort. Other elements of the anti-bullying campaign will include character education and counseling for bullies.