October may be National Bullying Prevention Month, but Paulette Simington, executive director of special education for Martinsville City Public Schools, says education about bullying and how it impacts everyone is an ongoing process.

“Virginia School Boards have been required to include bullying prevention as part of character education since 2005,” Simington said. “Bullying is also required to be a prohibited behavior in the student code of conduct.”

“Bullying has been linked to negative outcomes for students who are victims, bystanders, and those who actually do the bullying themselves. It negatively impacts the school climate, as well as learning, health, behavior and school outcomes.”

She said every year school counselors, starting at the elementary level, educate students about all aspects of bullying in hopes of preventing this behavior.

Speaking at the regular monthly meeting of the Martinsville City School Board, Simington then turned the microphone over to student representatives from each school, who spoke about specific ways they are being taught to make schools safe and bully free.

Dominque Hylton, the newly appointed member of the school board, said, when it comes to bullying, everyone has a part to play.

“Whether you’re a parent or a teacher, you have the students who bully, followers, supporters, passive supporters, disengaged onlookers, possible defenders, defenders of the bully child, or the victim,” Hylton said. “So that just goes to show that we all have a part in it, it’s just, ‘Where do you stand?’ Are you defending? Are you a disengaged onlooker or what is your role in what’s going on?”

The board also met in closed session for about 45 minutes to discuss employee matters, a pupil personnel matter and consulted with legal counsel regarding probable litigation or other legal matters.

MCPS Superintendent Zeb Talley, Martinsville High School Principal Aji Dixon and Shane McPeek, a member of the Martinsville Police Department who served as the resource officer at MHS, have been sued by a former student because she alleges that they didn’t protect after she had reported threats against her. She ultimately was beaten.

Talley, Dixon and McPeek have outside counsel representing them in the matter, but School Board Attorney Eric Monday has been fighting a subpoena seeking records from school district.

There is a hearing scheduled for Tuesday in Martinsville Circuit Court on motions to compel the school board to comply with the subpoena to produce documents and the motions to compel Talley and Dixon to provide complete answers to interrogatories and responses to requests for production of documents.

No action was taken when the board returned to regular session.

Accreditation confirmed

“Our schools are accredited,” Talley told the board. “All of them are accredited without conditions. ... As you know, we were given five years to just simply straighten out the schools and this was without any accreditation.

“But our marvelous teachers – and we have the best in the world and they proved it – and the marvelous staff and the young people who were so nice, dug in their heels and worked very hard and we were able to get them all accredited.”

The report on the state’s accreditation hasd been announced last month, but Talley was confirming the board the full picture.

New website

Sarah Byrd told board members that she worked with each department head to formulate a new design for the school district’s website. Beth Deatherage, the COO of Momenta (formerly HD Web Studio in Martinsville), gave board members a sneak peek at the site.

“As far as development, it’s all been built. So now we’re just taking information, filling in the content. The new site is responsive,” Deatherage said.

“What that means is, on your cell phone, instead of when you used to go to the website it would come up with kind of an abbreviated version and wasn’t very user friendly, now you’re going to have the exact same website. It’s just going to fit on your phone screen. It won’t be an app or anything, it will just adapt,” said Byrd, director of human resources, communications and community outreach

Deatherage said the new website would be ready to launch by Oct. 24, if the board gave its approval to do so.

3 schools get healthy snacks

“Patrick Henry Elementary School, Albert Harris Elementary School and Clearview Early Childhood Center have been awarded the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Grant for the 2019-2020 school year,” Sheilah Williams, director of school nutrition, told the board.

“Out of 220 schools that applied, only 149 schools were selected. We were fortunate to have three of our schools selected.”

The program provides fruit and vegetable snacks to students at no cost during the school day at times other than breakfast and lunch, she said. It is intended to promote healthier food choices and make a difference in student’s diets.

“This year we feature all Virginia-grown produce. Some items that our students are served are cauliflower, rainbow carrots, broccoli flower, baby spinach, a variety of apples, citrus fruits, red corn, Asian pears, snow peas, red pears, apricots, mangos and Brussels sprouts,” Williams said.

Autism program in the works

Talley told board members he would be sharing details later, but a new state program for special-needs students, including those with autism, is being developed.

“What they’re finding out is a lot of districts can’t afford their own program, so there’s going to be some networking, which is good,” he said.

Also, at the meeting, the board:

  • Approved the adoption of textbooks and changes to the Policy Manual as presented.
  • Approved the personnel report and Special Education Advisory Committee as presented.
  • Were reminded that their next meeting would be Nov. 11.

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