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CdA school board cracking down on bullying

Task force will offer solutions; parent wants Internet included

The Coeur d’Alene school board said Monday it will crack down on bullying in schools and work to change the culture that nurtures the conduct.

The board directed administrators to form a task force to size up the scope of the problem and recommend solutions.

School trustees also plan to streamline several district policies that address student conduct, harassment, bullying, threats, student suspensions and use of electronic devices such as cellphones and tablets.

Cyberbullying, which includes intimidation on Facebook pages and Twitter feeds, is a substantial problem that needs to be part of the district’s review, said Hannah Masters, a Coeur d’Alene mother of two teen sons.

Students live in a world of constant texting and social media posts, which makes them even more vulnerable to bullying, said Masters, co-founder of aBeanstalk, a service that helps parents monitor their children’s online activities and mobile phone use daily.

“Our children don’t get away from bullying,” she said. “It follows them 24 hours, seven days a week. … When things start going bad, it goes bad quickly.”

The district already addresses bullying and related issues in its elementary and middle schools, but the problem persists and more can be done, Superintendent Hazel Bauman said.

“Obviously, just rehashing what we have been doing is not enough, because until there is no more bullying, the task is still before us,” Bauman said.

She suggested the district enhance existing programs and consider new tools, including staff training and student intervention.

Bauman said she recently watched the 2011 documentary film “Bully,” which follows the lives of five students facing bullying daily. The filmmakers have promoted it as part of a national anti-bullying movement.

It might be worth showing “Bully” to middle school students in the district, Bauman said, though she suggested first screening it for parents and getting their advice.

The Coeur d’Alene Tribe also has awarded the district an $11,000 grant to purchase a program targeting bullying in middle school.

Board member Brent Regan cautioned against latching onto specific solutions and losing sight of the broader issues.

“I want to be sure that when we put our arms around this problem we’re getting the whole problem, and we’re not leaving a back door or an escape route that could be used,” Regan said.

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Then and Now: Comstock Park

James M. Comstock, born in 1838 in Wisconsin, arrived in Spokane in time to witness the great fire of 1889 and start Spokane Dry Goods with Robert Paterson. It became the Crescent, Spokane’s premier department store for a century. He also worked in real estate and owned other businesses. He served a term as Spokane mayor, starting in 1899. James Comstock died in 1918.