EDITORIAL: Let educators focus on actions at school

2013-08-16T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Let educators focus on actions at school nwitimes.com
August 16, 2013 12:00 am  • 

It is a universally accepted truth that bullying is bad, and bullying in school should not be tolerated by school officials. But what if the bullying isn't on school property?

That's where the issue gets complicated.

House Act 1423, signed into law in May, mandates school investigations of any reported bullying by or against students, regardless of where that act occurs.

The Valparaiso School Board this week discussed the impact of that new state law.

Superintendent Mike Berta gave the example of bullying at a movie theater on a Saturday night. If school personnel become aware of it, "we have an obligation to become involved."

That includes not just physical bullying but also by social media and other electronic messages.

"This is one more responsibility, and a big one, that detracts from the teaching and learning process," he said.

That is a legitimate concern, and one that can be missed when looking for solutions to social problems that involve school-aged children.

Don't lose sight of the fact that schools primarily exist to educate, not to adjudicate all issues involving minors of school age.

The new law requires yet another annual report and additional policies and procedures. The Indiana Department of Education will need to help local school districts sort out the ramifications of this law and offer guidance on how to comply with it.

That's time that could have been spent working on ways to improve the quality of education in Hoosier schools.

While we appreciate the need for more attention to the problem of bullying, it is troublesome to task schools with regulating behavior that occurs outside the school day and off school property.

Sure, get the schools involved in addressing bullying, especially when it occurs at school, but involve everyone else in the community as well when the bullying doesn't happen at school.

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