Posted Online: May 09, 2013, 5:54 pm

Bullying policy in Mercer County school expanded

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By Cathy Decker, edecker@mchsi.com

ALEDO -- The Mercer County School Board this week approved changes to the high school handbook that expand the definition of bullying to include actions on internet social sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

The action came after three parents or grandparents brought examples of bullying incidents to the board's attention.

They described incidents of name calling by both students and teachers, and physical and verbal abuse they claim have happened on over the past school year. Name calling, elbowing a girl in the chest and urging a student to harm or kill herself were among the examples. One parent has removed her child from the school for home schooling.

High school principal Garon Sronce said there is a fine line between allowing freedom of speech and bullying or harassment. "The problem comes with finding proof," he said.

Two large assemblies were held last year to address bullying, the principal said.

A good number of students have been suspended he told the board. The problem comes with student reporting and reporting accurately. "It gets real difficult to decipher."

Another problem the schools are seeing is cyber bullying. "Kids are very sophisticated on how they do it," he added.

He said the district is working on the problem. "Much more needs to be done."

Board president Marta Tucker suggested the entire community needs to become involved. "It takes more than a school district to solve this," she said. "We have to work together as a society."

Superintendent Alan Boucher added that the district is addressing this problem and said he thinks that "bystanders need to get involved. This is not a simple solution." He said technology has complicated the problem and assured the audience at the meeting that the problem "is not ignored."

In other business the board:

-- Hired Steve Speaker as high school wrestling coach; Cassie Bowen as Apollo 2nd grade teacher; and Elizabeth Chapman as high school science teacher. Additionally, the board accepted the resignation of Emma Downey as junior high volleyball coach and granted maternity leaves to Samantha Duncan and Amy Degelman.

-- Approved a roof bid of Armour Roofing of Galesburg to apply additional foam roofing material to the north section of the high school roof for $18,000.

-- Decided to keep registration fees at the elementary and intermediate schools the same as last year's fees for the 2013-14 school year.