WESTFIELD – Westfield Public Schools Administrator of Student Interventions Christopher Rogers presented an updated bullying prevention and intervention plan to the School Committee at its June 15 meeting.
Rogers said the bullying plan takes effect in-person at school and in-person at activities, but also online and any remote learning activity. “We want to create a safe environment in any atmosphere of learning,” he said, adding that the plan has been updated to cover remote learning.
After the meeting, Rogers said that the bullying prevention and intervention plan under Department of Elementary Secondary Education guidelines has to be reviewed and updated every two years anyway.
“We wanted to really emphasize the remote learning as part of our school environment. A safe learning environment is a safe learning environment, whether school is taking place in person or remotely,” he said, adding that the major revision in the plan is to include remote learning at any opportunity, so everyone would know this plan includes remote learning in the classroom.
The revised plan states “The district expects that all members of the school community will treat each other in a civil manner and with respect for differences.
“The district is committed to providing all students with a safe learning environment both in person and remote that is free from bullying and cyberbullying. This commitment is an integral part of our comprehensive efforts to promote learning, and to prevent and eliminate all forms of bullying and
other harmful and disruptive behavior that can impede the learning process.”
“That’s basically the gist of it. Now we’re making sure that people know, students and staff and members of the community that this extends to the remote learning environment,” Rogers said. He said the plan will be posted on the district’s website at www.schoolsofwestfield.org under the safety tab.
School Committee Vice Chair Tim O’Connor remarked that the plan is very comprehensive and detailed. “In the disciplinary action section, it talks about principals having the authority to make those disciplinary decisions. How are we ensuring that they are consistent across the schools,” he asked.
Rogers said the plan has progressive disciplinary steps, which are developmentally appropriate. He said if a student or a staff member is a perpetrator, whether the action is a first time offense or repeated over time is taken into consideration, as well as what standard does it raise to. “We try to do it progressively, at the building level, also,” Rogers said.
Rogers also said that Technolog Coordinator Erika Masciadrelli is creating an online reporting tool on the district website beginning in the fall, to help report any incidents of bullying real-time.
School Committee member Cindy Sullivan said she remembers when they created the policy four years ago, and what a big issue it was in the state. “Who would have known with remote learning, we would have had to put anti-bullying in it,” she said. Sullivan also asked since it first started, whether there has been a decrease due to early prevention and reporting.
Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski said that principals and assistant principals see more, but this year he could count on one hand the number of reports he got of bullying incidents, whereas he used to get 20 to 25 a year.
“I think what’s happened is a lot of the strategies, such as PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention Strategies) are really, really helping. I think what our administrative team has been able to do is prevent repeating. Once it gets addressed, the vast majority of students understand the consequences,” Czaporowski said.
Heather Sullivan said she knows that PBIS is in place, but that a lot of the improvement has to do with how the adults model behavior. “I appreciate the fact that you started last year with everyone greeting everyone else. I know we have a lot in place, and some child is going to be touched by something we have in place. Kudos to you,” she said.
“It’s about relationships, that’s what we’ve been saying,” Czaporowski said.