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Students in the School District of the Menomonie Area (SDMA) have now been back in school for a month, and some of the beginning-of-the-year excitement is starting to wear off. After a great homecoming last week, it is probably safe to say that the “honeymoon period” of the new school year is officially over. As students and staff settle into their daily routines for the next eight months, now is a good time to revisit the expectations and procedures that have been established in the school district to help approximately 3,400 children have a productive, healthy, and enjoyable experience.

While it is the hope and expectation that everyone gets along and treats each other with respect 100 percent of the time in our schools, it is not realistic to think that there will not be any problems or challenges during the year. While some relationship challenges might be considered to be normal learning experiences for young children and maturing adolescents, bullying and harassment are serious problems that can negatively impact a person’s education, physical, or emotional well being. Despite sustained efforts by many in our schools to encourage healthy relationships and positive interactions, bullying and harassment sometimes occurs in the SDMA.

According to SDMA board policy, bullying is a deliberate behavior using words, social actions, or physical actions intended to cause fear, or a real or perceived imbalance of power. Bullying may be a repeated behavior or a significant isolated event, and it shall not be tolerated in the SDMA. All instances of bullying in our schools are to be investigated and documented through the procedures prescribed in district policy and SDMA administrative rules.

Bullying continues to be taken quite seriously in our schools, and in addition to having policies and rules related to bullying, a large amount of time and resources are expended each year on both bullying prevention and in response to bullying actions. Children are taught to “speak up to stop bullying” in various parts of the school district’s curriculum, and our school district often hosts motivational speakers and partners with other outside agencies to bolster effectiveness in this area. Some initiatives already underway this school year include the work of the MHS Link Crew to develop positive school leaders and help orientate the freshmen class to the high school; the Start with Hello program put on by the MHS Breakfast Club to improve student connections and combat social isolation; the new Character Dare program at Menomonie Middle School to promote the development of positive character and core values; and the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) programming to teach appropriate behaviors in the SDMA elementary schools.

Teachers, principals, and all other employees in the SDMA are fully committed to developing healthy relationships with students, providing good supervision, and taking appropriate actions when necessary. The school district’s internet filter screens for cyberbullying, and staff members carefully monitor student interactions as much as possible. In order to really curb bullying in Menomonie, however, it is imperative that we all work together. It is important that students, staff, parents, and community members are diligent in reporting bullying in a timely, detailed, and complete manner so that school officials, and in some cases law enforcement officers, can take actions that are necessary to keep our children healthy and safe.

In addition to the online bullying portal and more traditional reporting mechanism already present in the school district, last year the school district rolled out Securly’s Tipline and Auditor 24 service. Tipline allows students to report threats of violence by sending anonymous tips via phone, text, or email; and Auditor 24 provides an around-the-clock risk assessment team to analyze school district network traffic flagged for a variety of potential concerns like self-harm, bullying, and other threatening behaviors. Potential threats to school safety may be reported to the tipline at www.securly.com/tip, by calling or texting 1-833-300-STOP, or by emailing tipline@securly.com. All of these tools will help SDMA staff members keep students healthy and safe.

Should school families or community stakeholders have any questions or concerns related to bullying, harassment, or keeping children in our schools healthy and safe, I invite you to contact the administration at your child’s school, or visit me at the Administrative Service Center on Pine Avenue. More information about our schools can be found on the school district website (www.sdmaonline.com), and I regularly post school-related information on Twitter (www.twitter.com/sdmaonline).

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