“This is a learning process. We’re learning from students and parents.”
Emmetsburg High School Principal Jay Jurrens opened an update on the subject of bullying with those words at Wednesday’s meeting of the Emmetsburg Community School Board. The bullying topic had been brought to the board’s attention during its December 2011 meeting by a group of concerned district patrons.
“Since our last meeting, we have been working on developing more awareness on the subject,” Jurrens explained. “We’ve placed information on bullying on the school web site, along with a form that students or parents can fill out and email to the school to report incidents of bullying. Also, I am sending an email to every student to address the subject in the next day or so.”
According to Jurrens, the goal of the effort is to make the reporting of bullying incidents as easy as possible, and through the use of the website, to avoid face-to-face confrontations between students.
“This is also now part of the permanent student resources link on the webpage,” Jurrens added.
“I tried that feature out,” Superintendent John Joynt told the board members. “It was very shortly after I sent a test that I received a reply from Mr. Jurrens and Mr. Matlage, even though I’d noted it was just a test. But the link does work.”
According to Jurrens, after the initial concerns were brought up, a re-evaluation of the district’s approach to the subject was done. “We’re going to change the way we address the topic of bullying. For starters, we found out in talking to our students that a large group assembly doesn’t work that well. So, we’re going to work with smaller groups of students. And, we’re going to have separate groups of boys and girls because the bullying takes different aspects boys tend to be more ‘in your face’ and girls don’t.”
Jurrens continued, “Our students feel that the biggest issue is centered in the ninth and tenth grades, but we also know that our parents want this to be addressed in all grades, so we will include the middle school students in our efforts, which will be addressed through the classroom. And, we’re also going to look at this issue more in our teacher in-service and we’re also going to be putting up some informational signs and posters to be placed in the building that will outline what a person should do if they are bullied or witness an incident of bullying.”
With regard to some recently publicized incidents of hazing around the state, Jurrens noted that he and Activities Director Joe Carter have had discussions and that Mr. Carter has talked with the athletic staff in regards to the subject.
“We want to get this under control,” Jurrens assured the board members and the public on hand. “We appreciate all of the feed back we’ve received on this issue.”
In other items of business, the school board approved an early retirement package for board secretary Pat Swanson at the end of the current school year. Superintendent John Joynt noted that even with the approval, Swanson had indicated she would remain with the district through December of 2012.
The resignation of Kari Mueller as Assistant Varsity Volleyball coach was approved, pending suitable replacement, and the board also approved Valerie Pickett as a volunteer Track Coach for the upcoming track season.
Superintendent Joynt also explained a plan to publicize the upcoming Open Enrollment signup deadline of March 1, through some advertising. “We have 74 students who are open enrolled into our district now, with 12 of those students in the junior class alone, and 26 who open enroll out,” Joynt noted. “Every year, we have people who want to bring their children here but miss the open enrollment deadline and we have to turn them down due to the state rules. I just want families to know that there is a deadline and that it’s coming up.”
“I think that’s a good idea,” noted Board President BJ Schany as the board agreed with Joynt’s idea.