Few show at BOE

Published 8:53 am Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Only a handful of concerned citizens gathered at Tuesday’s Brewton City School Board meeting to discuss ways to open communication between students, parents and administrators.
Those wishing to give input were given nearly two weeks to submit answers to a four-part questionnaire. At the night’s meeting, it was disclosed that 15 questionnaires were submitted in the wake of allegations that parents are fearful of reporting incidents to teachers and administrators.
Last month, Leza Nelson spoke to the Brewton City Council on behalf of the “Citizens for a Better Brewton” group and urged parents to help her “break down this culture of fear.” And the community took her plea a few days later as a standing-room-only crowd called for changes to policies and procedures.
But, parents and school officials offered few changes Tuesday night as the bulk of the night’s discussion centered on bullying and harassment of students.
“Whether it’s harassment, bullying or teasing, when one child is constantly the subject of that treatment, that there is a problem,” one parent said. “From my perspective those who did it, there are other issues within that individual that needs to be address. Regardless of policies there are times when we have to step out and look at it.”
Leza Nelson, who spoke on behalf of the Citizens for a Better Brewton group, said parents and students continue to be afraid to report problems.
T.R. Miller counselor Becky Edge said there is a student mentality of “being a snitch” when reporting inappropriate behavior.
“And that’s a nationwide thing, not a Brewton City School thing,” she said. “A lot of times I have to find (the problem) out and go hunt them down. The first words out of their mouth is, ‘I don’t’ want it to come from me.’ It’s a kid thing. Across the board, they don’t want to be labeled as a snitch. It is a problem. I wish they didn’t fear that.”
Parents also asked that the online policies be written so that parents can easily understand the meanings. The group was also reminded that the procedure for reporting bullying and harassment, as well as the actions’ definitions, can be found inside the school policy book that is sent home at the beginning of each school year.
One suggestion was to create a “reasonable policy” that monitors one-on-one student-teacher interaction.
“Something needs to be in place to protect the kids and teachers,” Nelson said. “We need a policy if alone with a student, it must be in a place that is monitored.”
Currently, there is no state policy regarding the behavior, the board said.
“I feel like we need to do these things,” Board Chairman Stephanie Walker said. “We need some concrete suggestions about specific policies you want us to work on. I want us to focus on the policies you feel are the least successful.
“I’d also like us to make sure we focus on policies so they are clear,” she said. “I also know there are a lot great ideas out there. We need to hone on the things that can make us the most successful.”
The school board will meet again on Oct. 20 for a regular meeting and a second public workshop.
Walker reminded parents that parent night at TRM is set for Oct. 23.
“Use the time to reconnect and develop those relationships,’ she said. “Have a conversation. We aren’t connecting as well as we could have.”

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