(Feb. 10, 2017) The safety of students in the St. Joseph School District (SJSD) is a top priority and our administrators, faculty and staff work throughout the year to ensure policies are followed to protect kids from bullying and to educate and train our employees on how to handle and report bullying complaints.
We think it is important provide a response to recent questions about the revised Missouri statute (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 160.775) that requires school districts to update existing antibullying policies.
A false allegation suggested that the St. Joseph School District is in violation of that statute by virtue of the fact that the District has not yet updated its policy (JFCF) to account for the recent revisions.
Subsection 6 of the statue provides that “Each district shall review its antibullying policy and revise it as needed. The district’s school board shall receive input from school personnel, students, and administrators when reviewing and revising the policy.”
The District had no legal obligation to begin undertaking the review and revision required under the amendment (including the receipt of necessary input) until the amendment took effect. The District has a recognized process in place, namely the Board’s Policy Committee, to account for the law’s new requirement that it receive input on the policy revision. The District is committed to that process, including the following steps:
· The District received the policy updates from the Missouri School Boards’ Association (MSBA) in October 2016
· The District sent questions and concerns on the policy to our attorney, Spencer-Fane, in November 2016
· Spencer Fane’s team responded in November 2016, then that information was sent to MSBA
· The District received a legal response from MSBA in January 2017
The statute now also requires the District’s anti-bullying policy to be included in the student handbook. Student handbooks are published and distributed at the start of the school year, so those had already been distributed for 2016-17. The statute therefore recognizes that there will be some lag between the effective date of the amendment and the adoption (and distribution of) implementing policy regulations.
Since Missouri adopted its first anti-bullying law in 2006, the District has been making good faith efforts to address bullying in the school environment. Moreover, the measures the District has taken since the start of the 2016-17 school year to structure its bullying investigations in accord with the amendments to Section 160.775 should be commended as a proactive measure to address bullying in ways envisioned by the amendment even before the District was required to do so (please see the attached form).
The District anticipates finalizing its revisions to Policy JFCF at its regular February Board meeting, and those revisions will be reflected in next year’s student handbooks.
All sunshine requests, including those made in conjunction with questions regarding this policy, and the responses to those requests will be posted on the District’s website at this link.