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Ahead of the fight: F-M finds ways to keep bullying at bay

Officer Ben Lesperance, F-M’s new school resource officer, interacts with senior Colin FitzGibbons in the halls of the school. Hiring Officer Lesperance is one of many recent steps the school district has taken to minimize bullying.

Officer Ben Lesperance, F-M’s new school resource officer, interacts with senior Colin FitzGibbons in the halls of the school. Hiring Officer Lesperance is one of many recent steps the school district has taken to minimize bullying. Provided

— Fayetteville-Manlius Superintendent Corliss Kaiser is tackling the issue of bullying head on.

She is busily integrating the Dignity for All Students Act into the day-to-day operations of her district. This statewide legislation, which took effect July 1, seeks to foster a safe learning environment for students, free from discrimination and bullying.

To ensure that schools are participating, the act mandates schools to collect and report data regarding incidents of bullying. Also, school boards are now required, under the now further amended Section 2801 of the Education Law, to include language regarding the new act in their codes of conduct.

Not only has F-M changed some aspects of their code of conduct in response to the The Dignity Act, but Kaiser is making sure the new legislation is understood. She and her staff have studied and trained in the law, and attended conferences to become up to date on it. In addition, there are now coordinators in each of the six schools, and one coordinator overseeing the whole district. These coordinators are specific to the new legislation.

“I would say that a preponderance of bullying is occurring in our secondary schools,” Kaiser said, “and that’s not just in F-M, that’s everywhere. Bullying evolved over time with the kids, so we do find high incidences of bullying in our secondary schools. The little ones unfortunately pick up on the behaviors and in some cases, thankfully not in many, they become serious.”

On educating F-M’s students on their behavior, the superintendent said: “We have provided character education to our students for a number of years now, and every summer our units used to teach character education are updated and enhanced. But, more than that, we are trying to build a culture of acceptance.”

That culture of acceptance is being facilitated by Officer Ben Lesperance, police officer for the Manlius Police Department but also F-M’s brand new resource officer. He was hired because a task force of parents, teachers, students and community members “thought it would add a new dimension to our safety procedures,” Kaiser said.

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