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Mixed opinions on bullying, harassment policies in Utah schools

Posted at 5:17 PM, Aug 10, 2022

SALT LAKE CITY — Back in June, the Utah State Board of Education passed a rule about bullying and harassment policies in schools, but local organizations requested a public comment hearing to raise some concerns before the policies come into effect.

The first day those policies could be implemented is August 22.

There were mixed opinions at the virtual public hearing Wednesday about state guidelines to address bullying and harassment in schools. Some feel that the policy is too loose and were concerned with the wording used in the document.

“The term harassment free has not been defined, thus leaving an LEA or a teacher to define by their own opinion. This could cause problems with what it looks like and how to go about re-mediating or disciplining students who have been involved with bullying incidences,” said Tricia Butler with Utah Parents United.

Along with that group, the Utah chapter of the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism, and Path Forward Utah were the three organizations that requested a public comment hearing to discuss the rule.

“I would like to see more conflict resolution skills being taught in schools and resiliency training. We have to make sure that our kids are strong and life is not always fair and things happen,” said Jamie Renda with Path Forward Utah.

On the other hand, some parents say defining race would lead to more discrimination because kids could feel left out. One of the ways that the state let public and charter school districts figure out what policies they can try to implement was through the student climate survey. But that method faced criticism.

“Although easy to administer and seemingly harmless, the use of surveys as a form of data collection is limited and vague. Surveys are not research based, nor do they speak to the causation of problems such as harassment and discrimination,” said Jefferson Shupe, co-leader, Utah chapter, FAIR.

Some parents felt that the questions in the survey asking kids how they are feeling could give them ideas to hurt themselves.

One parent says her kids have been bullied at school and she wants to see training programs for teachers and staff. And for students, teaching them to stand up for themselves.

“For even our students, we are teaching them to stand up for themselves – if you see something, you need to do something, what does that look like? how do you do that, how do you be brave?”

The board says public comment will continue through August 19th. People can send in written comments to rule.comments@schools.utah.gov . The next board meeting is scheduled to be on September 8th.