Jun 29, 2023 / 01:12 PM CDT
Jun 29, 2023 / 01:12 PM CDT
MITCHELL, S.D. (KELO) A new policy was introduced at the June 26 Mitchell Board of Education meeting that would prohibit hate speech on school property.
Matt Christiansen, a school board member and psychologist for Avera Health, brought the policy forward in order to create a safe place for all students and help eliminate incidents that disrupt student learning.
, which differs from the schools bullying policy, specifically addresses racial slurs, discrimination and hate speech toward a student, staff, faculty, parent or visitor:
in school, on District property, on school District provided transportation, and at designated locations for such;
during any District-sponsored or District-sanctioned program or activity;
when the transmission of racial epithets and slurs as to national origin is through electronic means from a District computer or computer network, or other electronic school equipment;
when logging offenses in e-School/e-Learning;
when completing reports; or
when racial epithets and slurs as to national origin occur off District property or through the transmission of information from a computer that is accessed from non-District property, if the words or language causes a substantial disruption to the educational process or the orderly operation of a school. This may include, but is not limited to, prohibited communication disseminated through social media, chat groups, and email, with a nexus to the school.
The school districts bullying policy states that bullying is repeated and intentionally harmful behavior from one student to another. Forms of bullying include physical, verbal, emotional, sexual and racial.
Although the current bullying policy covers race-related issues, Christiansen said racial hate speech is more targeted and doesnt need to happen repeatedly for it to impact a students learning.
Our bullying policy talks about a pattern of repeated behavior, but I know that people have experienced some exposure to racial speech and insults, which dont really take the form of bullying because one instance of that is harmful, where bullying is designed as a pattern of behavior thats harmful, Christiansen said.
Christiansen hopes this policy will bridge the gap between the existing discrimination and bullying policies because, whether something a student may say is technically considered discrimination or not, it can still be offensive to a student of color.
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As for repercussions for using hate speech, Deb Olson, the school board president, they would be conditional based on the offenders age and purpose of malintent.
In other words, if an elementary student uses racial slurs or something like that inadvertently we know how children can say something that maybe theyve heard on television then that would be a less serious consequence and the administration would have the ability to deal with those on a case-by-case basis, Olson said.
The school board will vote on the policy during the second reading at the July 24 meeting. If the board approves the policy, it would go into effect immediately.
I hope that it helps all of our students feel safe and accepted and builds on the welcoming environment that we have and sets a standard benchmark for our community, Christiansen said.
The Mitchell School District had 2,747 students enrolled in the 2021-22 school year. White students made up 77.8 percent of the population with 2,136 students. There were 192 American Indian students, 15 Asian or Pacific Islander students, 263 Hispanic students, 31 black students and 110 mixed-race students.
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