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Snoqualmie schools' student reps starting bullying forums

Students at Mount Si High School are talking about solutions to school problems, and they've started with bullying. Last week, Mount Si hosted its first open forum for students to freely discuss the issue, led by students Chace Carlson and Cassady Weldon.

Carlson and Weldon, also student representatives on the Snoqualmie Valley School Board, reported on the forum at the Dec. 9 board meeting. Their findings were both expected and surprising.

"Obviously, there's still bullying and harassment going on. People see it every day," Carlson began.

Victims were both students and teachers, and so, in a sense, were the bullies. Carlson said some students mentioned hearing their own teachers complaining about other teachers, similar to the way student cliques bash other students.

"They said 'if our teachers can't get along, how are we supposed to?'" Carlson said.

There was good news, too. Carlson said that other students visiting Mount Si said they felt safer there.

"Compared to other schools, our population is much more kind and considerate," he added.

Weldon felt that her class didn't really have any cliques, and all the students got along. She attributed that to a greater attention to the problem of bullying at Mount Si.

"I think we've done a good job of raising awareness here... I've seen teachers step in, I've seen students step in," Weldon said.

That mutual involvement of students, teachers and parents, all working together, was the solution that came from the forum, Carlson reported.

Superintendent Joel Aune also attended the forum, and he praised the discussion as "thoughtful, respectful, and solutions-based."

School board members were deeply interested in the results of this forum, and asked whether they identified any trends, patterns of harassment, or typical victims of harassment in the group. Carlson told the board "It was the most diverse group of students you could pick."

Weldon said they planned to continue hosting the forums once or twice a month throughout the school year.

During the public comment period of the school board meeting, Kim Baker thanked the two students for starting the discussion on bullying, and she urged the board to bring on staff members focused on bullying prevention and rape prevention throughout the district.

Budget review

Business Services Manager Ryan Stokes briefly reviewed the district's budget for this year and the 2009-10 school year and discussed some of the things that could affect the 2011-12 budget. Much of it is hypothetical, since the state legislature is returning to Olympia for a special session to reduce the state budget another $1.1 billion.

The effects of those cuts could dramatically change the school district's budget, which receives only 23 percent of its annual funding from local taxes.

Stokes said the district should end this year with a $3.6 million general fund balance.

Operating costs for the district average about $4 million each month, and 80 percent of that goes to payroll, Aune noted.

He assured the board that they would review the budget monthly, probably for the rest of the year.

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