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School board bullying

Student bullying is a sad but all too common problem that school districts regularly contend with. Less well known is the problem of bullying school board members, superintendents, and their spouses, a panel said Sunday at NSBA’s Annual Conference in Boston.

Bullying or mobbing (bullying by more than one) is the embarrassing “elephant in the room” that people don’t want to talk about, said Pamela Rockwood, superintendent of Indian Creek School District #425 in DeKalb County, Illinois.

Unlike harassment, bullying can happen to anyone and must be persistent, repeated, enduring, and escalating, Rockwood explained.

“Philosophical differences,” resulting from four generations with “differing values, views and cultures” trying to figure each other out typically sets the stage of this behavior, she said.

In a 2016 survey of Illinois school boards and superintendents conducted by Rockwell and colleagues, 46 percent of respondents said they had been the victim of bullying during the past year. Another 64 percent said they had seen adult bullying or mobbing happening to other adults.

Nearly 5 percent admitted that they had bullied another adult in their school district.

Strategies to deal with board bullying range from formulating specific rules or a policy regarding board conduct to bringing in an outside facilitator to discuss behavior, according to the Indian Creek team.

It notes that a study presented at the 2015 NSBA conference found that school board behavior was linked to student achievement.

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