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School Board to discuss harassment policy

January 17, 2000|By BRUCE HAMILTON

Sexual harassment would be banned throughout the school system under a new policy the Washington County Board of Education is to discuss today.

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The policy prohibits all forms of harassment on all property under the School Board's jurisdiction and would apply to approximately 3,000 employees and 19,500 students. Violation could result in suspension, expulsion or dismissal.

Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett Jr. said the policy is a staff initiative that has been in development for several months. It was not proposed in response to any incident, he said.

The policy will help keep track of any problems. "None of us are quite sure how much harassment kids are working with," Bartlett said. "If we do have a problem, if we have issues in the school system, then we can address them in a uniform way."

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The proposed harassment policy would be effective on school-owned or -operated buses and other vehicles.

It also would be effective "while away from school grounds if the misconduct directly affects the learning environment, management and welfare of the school system." The policy covers harassment based on race, sex, color, national origin, religion or disability.

It includes verbal, physical or written harassment or abuse, repeated demeaning remarks, and implied or explicit threats concerning grades, achievements or performance.

It also includes demeaning jokes, stories or activities directed at an individual.

Sexual harassment is defined in the policy as:

* Unwelcome, inappropriate advances or requests for sexual favors.

* Verbal or physical conduct/behavior of a sexual nature that interferes with an individual's performance.

* Verbal or physical conduct/behavior that is a form of intimidation, hostile or offensive to the educational environment or workplace.

* Adverse actions against a person as a result of the rejection of, reaction to or filing of a sexual harassment complaint.

Incidents should be reported to the school's principal, but other adults who handle complaints will help bring the problem to the principal's attention, according to the policy.

The School Board is scheduled to talk about the policy for the first time in a work session this morning. The policy is on the agenda for first reading at tonight's business meeting. It will not go into effect until it passes a second reading.

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