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Parent expresses concerns about bullying to Morris Area School Board

MORRIS - What can the Morris Area School District do to take a stronger stance against bullying?

That was one question posed by Cali Lebrija, a parent of seven children who are attending or will be attending school in the district, during the visitor comments time during the School Board's meeting on Monday night.

Lebrija told the board she was concerned about what she sees as an increase in bulling, particularly at the high school, citing instances she's seen or heard about related to name-calling, pushing and stolen backpacks.

"From a parent's standpoint, it seems like the zero tolerance [policy] isn't working," said Lebrija. "You have a zero tolerance policy, and yet the bullies can still do it and the victims can't fight back."

Lebrija suggested that the district may need to look at a new method to combat bullying, since teachers and staff can't be everywhere or do everything. She also suggested more aggressive monitoring and more clear-cut consequences for students who bully other students.

"I think there has to be a safety net for these kids so they're rewarded for standing up against bullying," said Lebrija. "I think if you empower kids to speak up, other kids will follow."

"This is a conversation we have quite often, as far as the bullying and the issues and what we can and what we should do," said Board Member Brett Fuhrman.

"Bullying does leave life-long scars," said Board Member Laura Carrington. "I definitely hear what you're saying and I hope we can do something about it."

Other business

• The board approved hiring a junior high gymnastics coach due to "higher than normal" expected participation in the program, said Superintendent Scott Monson. Since the position is not currently listed, it would need to be a new position. If approved, the coach would likely cost between $1,281 to $1,506 per season.

• The board approved a contract with the Chokio-Alberta School District to purchase online classes from the Morris Area School District. Under the terms of the contract, Morris will provide Chokio-Albert with up to a maximum of two online classes per year at a cost of $488 per student.

Currently there is one Chokio-Alberta student taking an online agriculture class in Morris.

• Members of the Morris Area Business Professionals of America gave an update on their status to the board. The chapter currently has about 75 members, up from 35 members in their first year. Additionally, 30 of the students are in ninth grade, which makes advisor Jenny Maras optimistic about the future leadership of the group.

Students Sydney Beyer (senior), Laura Kuhn (junior) and Kaylee Brandt (junior) shared information about the group's service projects, Business of the Month program and participation in a national Teen Distracted Driving Summit.

Upcoming meetings

The school board will next meet on Monday, Nov. 28 at 4:30 p.m. in the high school media center for a work session. The next regular school board meeting is Monday, Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. at the Morris Senior Center.