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Bullying discussion gets loud at school board meeting

Snoqualmie Valley School Board President Caroline Loudenback pounded her gavel numerous times, quieting the room during a heated impromptu comment session on bullying prevention during the board's Thursday, Sept. 9, regular meeting.

The comments and questions, which came from parents in attendance including the mother of the freshman injured in a much-publicized Nov. 2009 Mount Si High School locker room fight, came after staff members from Valley middle, elementary and high schools gave a presentation on Positive Behavior Support Systems.

Opstad Elementary counselor Steve Bates, Mount Si High School counselor Thomas Tilton and Assistant Superintendent Don McConkey spoke to the board about the systems, new strategies aimed at decreasing problem behaviors and preventing bullying and harassment in schools.

Bates described how elementary staff teach students the three R's: recognizing, refusing and reporting problems. McConkey highlighted how middle school-level bullying prevention activities are taught in health classes. He said positive actions are recognized and respect is highlighted and discussed within classrooms.

Tilton told the board that the recently formed Diversity and Respect Team, made up of staff, community members and students, along with an ASB-connected student forum and the long-time Natural Helpers program, are outlets for students to prevent negative behavior or for students who are experiencing bullying and harassment at the school.

Tilton's presentation was interrupted by comments from Peggy Johnson, whose teenage son was injured in a campus locker room fight last fall. Johnson rose from her seat to question Tilton on how students can get involved in these programs, and asked why she had never learned of them before.

A visibly frustrated Johnson fought back tears as she called on Tilton for answers. A handful of other residents at the meeting joined Johnson in calling for increased promotion of anti-bullying programs in the district.

When board members asked Johnson to resume her seat, some parents in attendance asked that she be allowed to continue.

Superintendent Joel Aune then told parents that the presentation was the wrong time for the discussion, as it was meant as information for the board.

McConkey reminded the audience that the Mount Si PTSA is planning an October forum on bullying prevention.

• Learn more about the Mount Si PTSA at www.mshsptsa.com.

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