District 11 adopts updated harassment policies

Anoka-Hennepin School District board members swiftly adopted changes Oct. 22 to a trio of policies relating to bullying and harassment.

The action was taken at the board’s regular meeting and really just tweaked the current policies that deal with equal education opportunity; harassment, violence and discrimination; bullying and cyberbullying prohibition.

“This is just some changed language and an expansion of the policies to include off-campus incidences,” said Paul Cady, general counsel for the district.

The changes have more to do with style than with substance, Cady said.

The language in the new policies uses “target” instead of “victim” and “offender” instead of “perpetrator.”

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

Each of the policies specifically states a consideration of “the totality of the circumstances on and off campus.” In other words, there will be consequences for incidences which cause a disruption in school or away from school when those incidences interfere with students’ or employees’ right for freedom from harassment or hostility.

Another change newly adopted comes in the definition of bullying.

As stated in the bullying prohibition policy (which includes cyberbullying), “Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.”

That definition, Cady said, comes from a Department of Education website definition of bullying.

Bullying, the policy further states, includes actions such as “making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally and excluding someone from a group on purpose.”

Bullying comes in three forms: verbal bullying, social bullying and physical bullying.

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

The first reading of the policy changes took place Sept. 24 at the school board’s regular meeting.

Sue Austreng is at [email protected]