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Students welcome rules on harassment

January 31, 2000|By BRUCE HAMILTON

Some students say they welcome the harassment policy that the Washington County Board of Education is preparing to pass.

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The School Board during its regular business meeting tonight will hold a second reading of a policy to ban all forms of harassment. It covers conflicts among students, between an adult employee and a student or among adults.

The new rules would prohibit all forms of abuse based on race, sex, color, national origin, size, religion or disability.

Several teen leaders said Monday that harassment is not a serious issue in their schools but they favored rules to prevent it.

"I've never known harassment to be a problem at Smithsburg, but it's definitely a good policy," said Layla Alizadeh, Student Council president at Smithsburg High School.

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"With these changing times, you never know what's going to come up," she said. "It can only help people."

Heather Seavolt, a Clear Spring High School senior, said she has never personally observed physical harassment in school. But the Student Council president has heard derogatory comments about others' height and race in the halls.

"I hope it cuts down on that," she said. "I think it's a good idea."

Strictly enforcing the rules among elementary students could be extreme, she said. But Seavolt liked the idea. "Students' rights need to be protected," she said.

North Hagerstown High School Student Council President Stephanie Gullace said she has witnessed teasing between students that became harassment. The 17-year-old senior said the policy could be positive.

"If enforced correctly and properly, it will be," she said.

The School Board adopted a sexual harassment policy on Dec. 17, 1971, and later included harassment in a discipline policy adopted May 1999.

The new policy is more detailed and comprehensive. It includes verbal, physical or written harassment or abuse, repeated demeaning remarks, and implied or explicit threats concerning grades, achievements or performance.

It also covers demeaning jokes, stories or activities directed at an individual. The new rules would apply to approximately 3,000 employees and 19,500 students.

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