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South Williamsport Area School District’s cyberbullying policies questioned after ‘vile’ social media post

South Williamsport Area School Board member Sue Bowman questioned the district’s cyberbullying policies and enforcement after a student who tested positive for COVID-19 was confronted by social media posts Bowman described as “vile, nasty and disgusting.”

Bowman raised the questions as the board considered two existing policies as part of a vote to stay in compliance with federal anti-discrimination laws.

Bowman went through a number of policies she felt may be applicable to the situation, questioning why the policies were not invoked, before reading a letter from the student.

Superintendent Mark Stamm said that the policies as they currently are written limit how the district can react. He noted some districts have policies that apply to actions and behavior outside of the school and school-related

activities but said traditionally South Williamsport Area School District chose to defer to the parents’ role outside of the school.

Stamm further said many of the policies hinge on the phrase “substantial disruption,” which he said has a clear precedent in what it does and doesn’t mean. Emails sent to parents by Stamm and to coaches by the athletic director did not rise to the level of substantial under precedent, Stamm said.

“We could make adults aware and kids aware of what is reasonable conduct,” Stamm said of the emails.

Stamm said of the cyberbullying itself that it was wrong.

“As parents in the community, we should be outraged,” Stamm said.

“We should be a district of no tolerance, in and out of school,” board member Erica Molino said. “As a board, I want to know what our options are.”

Molino alluded to past instances of bullying and expressed frustration with the district’s inaction on the issue. As the meeting ended she asked Stamm if he could further review the most recent incident again and reconsider if the posts violate current district policies.

Stamm said he would reexamine the posts to determine if further discipline is warranted.

District solicitor Fred Holland said the board could either table the vote or approve the policies and revisit them at any time. The board voted unanimously to table the two most relevant policies while approving four others relevant to complying with federal law.

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