District 11 holds first reading updating harassment policies

Changes are planned for Anoka-Hennepin School District 11 policies that relate to bullying and harassment.

The school board unanimously gave first reading to the proposed policies last week. These policies include equal education opportunity; harassment, violence and discrimination; bullying prohibition; and cyberbulling.

The changes, according to Paul Cady, the district’s general counsel, have more to do with style than with substance.

Style changes include changing victim to target and perpetrator to offender.

One of the biggest changes in the policies relates to events that happen off campus and then spill over into school.

Events that cause a disruption in school or that interfere with students or employees right to be free of harassment will be dealt with.

Another change comes in the definition of bullying.

“This is very similar to what we’ve had previously,” Cady said.

The definition comes from a Department of Education website definition, he said.

During the public comment portion of the Sept. 24 meeting, Melissa Thompson encouraged the school board to include language in the policies that address harassment incidents where there is no malice intended.

Thompson gave an example of her daughter being approached to join a religious group during the previous school year.

Although she said she was not interested, Thompson said that her daughter was continually asked to justify her faith or lack there of by members of that group.

Thompson said she would like incidents like that to also be considered harassment.

The policy changes come as a result of the settlement agreement and consent decree approved by the school board in March.

A final reading of the proposed policy changes is planned for the Oct. 22 school board meeting.

Kelly Johnson is at [email protected]

  • Melissa Thompson

    Just to clarify my request was to include the language “The absence of anger or malice does not negate a claim of harassment.” Because there is a belief that if a behavior if not physical or threatening that it is somehow not harassing. Repeated demands of a student to defend his/her faith does constitute harassment and should be specifically spelled out given the confusion over the last year or so. I am quite confident if it was their child who was repeatedly being approached by someone at school asking them to join a Buddhist, Wiccan or faith group other than their own they would most certainly consider it harassment. The language I requested would protect all kids from this kind of subtle but equally distressing kind of harassment and I’m completely confused as to why they would refuse to include it.