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Gray Areas Remain in Chappaqua's Bullying Policy

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. – Questions remain for Chappaqua's school board members following several discussions regarding a state-mandated "bullying policy,” though they said they don't expect any answers to truly be black and white.

“We can do it as carefully as we can, but all of these issues are value issues,” said school board member Victoria Tipp.

Despite the gray areas, the board moved closer to finalizing the policy at last week’s board of education meeting. The policy is formally known as the Harassment and Discrimination Prevention Policy and must be implemented by school districts state-wide before July 1.

As with previous discussions, several board members questioned the inclusion of a passage that places responsibility on the school district for issues that may happen outside of the school, but still affect a student’s ability to learn.

“Behaviors that take place at locations outside the district that materially and substantially disrupt the education process of the school environment or impinge on the rights of other students are prohibited, and may be subject to disciplinary consequences,” read the passage in question.

"If there are two kids who are abusing each other on school property, having a problem, we need to intervene," said school board member Randy Katchis. "The question becomes when you start talking about things that go beyond the walls of the school."

Tipp said much of the language in the policy could not be changed if the district wanted to, as it is coming directly from the state. School board President Alyson Kiesel said covering behavior outside the school might be difficult to enforce, but she understands why it is included.

"I'm concerned about if someone threatens a kid off campus at a soccer game or whatever and says ‘if you come to school tomorrow I’m going to put you in a locker,'" Kiesel said. "That child’s now afraid to come to school, if it affects somebody else’s ability to learn, that becomes our problem."

Another part of the policy the board attempted to clarify is the intent behind an incident. School board member Karen Visser said cultural differences and misunderstandings can lead to unintentional violations of the policy. To solve the problem, she suggested the draft remove the word “impinge” and replace it with “infringe."

The policy will be discussed again and is expected to be finalized when the board meets on June 19.

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