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CMS adopts anti-bullying policy

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CHARLOTTE -- By a 6-3 vote, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education on Tuesday night adopted a policy that specifies that bullying, or tolerance of bullying by teachers and administrators, is not permitted. School officials hope to have the policy in place by next year even though they admit some kinks still need to be worked out.

"Bullying is not going to be tolerated at all anywhere in CMS," school board member Tom Tate said.

The policy lists specific groups of students who are protected from bullying, as well as outlawing any kind of bullying or harassment. It reads, in part: “It is the policy of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education to maintain learning environments that are free from harassment or bullying. This includes, but is not limited to, freedom from harassment or bullying based on an individual’s real or perceived race, color, sex, religion, creed, political belief, age, national origin, linguistic or language differences, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, socioeconomic status, height, weight, physical characteristics, marital status, parental status or physical, mental, or sensory disability. The Board prohibits any and all forms of harassment or bullying on Board property or at Board-sanctioned events.”

CMS student Juan Vasquez said the new anti-bullying policy will make him feel safer in the hallways and the classrooms, and those who target students based on sexual orientation, race or weight may think twice before belittling their peers.

"I've been hearing from people who are seniors in high schools now saying, ‘you know, I wish [we had] something like this in middle school," he said. “If someone wanted to bully another student, they won't do it now because they know this policy is in place.”

According to data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted in CMS by the Centers for Disease Control every other year: One in four middle school students at CMS say they’ve been bullied or harassed on school property in the last year. In high school, it’s one in five students. The survey also found that more than half of CMS middle school students think it’s a serious problem, and nearly half of high school students do.

But some parents argued that the new policy would promote values that should be taught at home.

“Many parents are validly concerned about values that are taught in that training that they as parents feel they have a responsibility for and they're concerned about CMS stepping in there,” school board member Ken Gjertsen explained.

The policy is expected to be in place by next school year. It is still in the early stages so school officials say the consequences will follow the student code of conduct.

"Counseling with the student, meeting with the student and his parent, having them go through particular programs to have them recognize what they're doing, up to and including suspension," said CMS COO Mo Green.

Green says the consequences could become even more severe as the district implements the no tolerance policy. What happens to employees found bullying is still not set in stone, but for now, budgetary funds will go toward training staff members on the policy and putting materials in the schools.

School board member Kaye McGarry presented a substitute motion Tuesday that did not name specific groups, but that proposal was voted down.

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