Norwalk Board of Education forms policy to prevent adult-on-student bullying

BMHS bus
A school bus leaves Brien McMahon High School recently.

Updated 2:21 p.m. Wednesday with pdfs of the policies

NORWALK, Conn. – Brien McMahon High School students have helped Norwalk Board of Education members write two new policies to improve student life, BOE member Steven Colarossi said Tuesday.

An anti-bullying policy for adults, aimed at providing better role models the students, and a policy dealing with embarrassing or explicit photographs were drafted by the BOE Policy Committee Tuesday night with the input of students from BMHS’s Center for Youth Leadership (CYL), Colarossi said during the Board of Education meeting.

The CYL teens asked for the anti-bullying policy, Colarossi said. The students brought proposals from school districts outside of Connecticut to the committee meeting that preceded the full BOR meeting, he said.

“We put together a straight-forward, easy-to-understand policy,” he said. “The intention is to have the same prohibitions on adult-on-adult and adult-on-student bullying that we now have for student-on-student bullying.”

Board Chairman Mike Lyons asked if the committee had taken care not to undermine the staff members’ authority.

Colarossi said the draft referred to “respectful coaching and counseling,” “justified progressive disciplinary procedures” and tried to distinguish between “passionate loud communications” and bullying.

Board member Artie Kassimis, a member of the committee, mentioned coaches who get heated “in the moment” and said the committee tried to define the fine line.

As for the policy regarding pictures, Colarossi said, embarrassing photographs sometimes include Photoshopped images of teachers.

“We, as a committee, felt that, essentially, we have to help students protect themselves from their own impetuous behavior,” he said. “As a result, because we had students from Center for Youth Leadership with us, we were able to bounce a lot of ideas off of them.”

Both policy drafts will be voted on by the entire board at its April 23 meeting.

Memo.BoE.adult bullying and demeaning images

Demeaning Image Policy 5136



8 responses to “Norwalk Board of Education forms policy to prevent adult-on-student bullying”

  1. Suzanne

    Really? You mean civility, politeness, good manners and appropriate behavioral standards have to be “legislated”?

  2. Steve Colarossi

    The issue is not that “appropriate behavioral standards” need to be legislated. Rather, the Policy Committee believed that it was important to establish a common set of norms which would facilitate adult modeling of the behavior in which we expect our students to engage.

  3. From the knee jerk reaction of our politicians chipping away at the amendment and overlooking the obvious need for psychiatric health care at Sandy Hook…I don’t want the next generation, EVER, to model this behavior.

  4. Tim T

    Irish Girl
    I think you may have posted on the wrong article as this is about adult-on-student bullying IN THE Norwalk Schools. However Thank God politicians are working together to save lives and outlaw these weapons of mass destruction that slaughtered innocent children and adults in Newtown. Its time that the 2nd amendment is interpreted in the intent its was written as in weapons for individuals in a militia. I commend the politicians on both side of the aisle.

  5. Suzanne

    Mr. Colorassi, You have been sitting in committee meetings too long. Your statement is pure bureaucratic-speak. You are saying the Policy Committee needed to outline for the adults just how to behave so the students would act appropriately, that is, “legislate appropriate behavior” for the adults so the students would be “good.” It’s ridiculous – shouldn’t the adults in Norwalk education KNOW how to behave appropriately?

  6. Steve Colarossi

    I would tend to agree with you that it can become far too easy to try to legislate behavior, when all we really need is to show a little compassion to one another and some common sense. I would also agree (as would my wife and daughters) that some weeks, I do spend far too much time attending meetings. Of course, I also make it a point to talk to principals and teachers on a regular basis to get a better sense of the needs that the practitioners believe deserve the most attention. My fellow parents don’t hesitate to give me their opinions as well. So, when I propose a policy initiative, it does not emanate from an ivory tower but rather from my own real world experiences (as a parent, practicing attorney and former teacher) and the suggestions made by others. Certainly, like many people, I am concerned that a profusion of regulations renders enforcement difficult, which, in turn, diminishes the effectiveness of the regulations. So, I tend to want to avoid new regulations unless absolutely necessary.
    That brings me to your well-founded concern that we were over-regulating people’s behavior.
    First, in a school community that is drawn from people of all different backgrounds, cultures and upbringings, there is a place for the establishment of general conduct guidelines—I’ve learned from my own experiences that not everyone approaches conflict resolution or criticism the same way (I’ve been told that my bluntness can be off-putting to some). General guidelines help the blunt be more aware that their conduct might be misinterpreted and helps the sensitive appreciate that direct or expressive communication is not necessarily intended to intimidate them.
    Second, there is an important role that the adults in a school system must play in modeling behavior for students. In a world in which the state legislature dictates acceptable and unacceptable norms of student conduct (which it does in Connecticut), I have a duty (as a local policy maker) to help institute the policies that support that state system. In my opinion, and in the opinion of the students who testified before our committee, and in the opinion of the other members of the Policy Committee, it is important for all adults in our school system to make that extra effort to model the behavior that we expect of our students. Having taught in a large urban high school, I can speak from my own experience that having these types of guidelines can serve a purpose. It’s not that staff would ever be intentionally mean to one another or to students and need to be “regulated” as you suggest. Rather, it sets a high bar for behavior and draws people’s attention to how important one’s own individual conduct is to setting a positive tone for an entire school community. That goal is a worthy one and one which I believe our policy changes will help to foster.

  7. Suzanne

    Again, a degree of consciousness from educators should be expected as would the resolution of bothersome group or individual dynamics with personal overtures towards resolution in a peaceful and non-confrontational way. That this has to be a policy is completely silly unless teachers have lost their noggins as to how to behave as leaders in their educational community. While I appreciate your response very much, I just can’t see why grown adults with a position of responsibility over children cannot be behaving properly all on their own. A conduct requirement seems superfluous.

  8. Out-of-Towner

    I heard about Norwalk’s decision on this on an NPR newscast and have looked for more information as this is the type of “policy” that is sadly, needed for at least one other and likely, more, school districts. I agree with Suzanne in that it really shouldn’t be necessary but I have experienced the reality of people responding to politics, the mounting pressure on schools to “perform” and respond to many & varied needs and learners and outright “fear” and “intimidation” in truly unfortunate and climate toxifying ways. Yes, this has resulted in bullying, lying and stone-walling students, colleagues and parents. Mr. Colarossi makes a bold and strong point in amending the policies to include “adult bullying.” I would add and recommend looking into incorporating ombudsmen in these policies to maximize unbiased assessment of situations. This practice was originated in Sweden and their “responsibility is to receive and investigate complaints and to serve as an independent and impartial arbiter in recommending what may be done to satisfy the complainant or in explaining why no action is necessary. Ombudsmen are now used in universities, corporations, municipalities, and institutions such as hospitals.” according to Merriam-Webster online. Good luck & thank you for setting an example in place in Connecticut. Hopefully the spirit of the discussions will encourage the improvement in climates more than the need to implement the policy.

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