, Salem, MA

July 22, 2013

Our view: Regional school must address bullying charges

The Salem News

---- — The Manchester Essex Regional School District, like other school systems across the state, has put a lot of time and energy into developing policies regarding how to recognize and respond to any alleged bullying among students, whether in school or even at home, when students can text, “tweet,” or exchange some of their harshest words on line.

And those policies include mandates for teachers and other school personnel to report such cases when they do arise — and they do, in virtually all of our schools.

Manchester Essex school officials now need to let residents and their own school community know they will also respond appropriately when one staffer raises what amounts to bullying allegations on the part of her own departmental supervisor. While personnel and privacy regulations no doubt apply, as Superintendent Pamela Beaudoin noted earlier this month, officials should at least be able to indicate whether they have talked to any or all of those involved, and note at least some conclusion to any investigation by the start of the new school year.

The allegations came from high school food services employee Maureen MacLeod, who — in a letter addressed to the School Committee in care of Beaudoin and to her Manchester selectmen in care of Town Administrator Gregory Federspiel — alleges that food services director Sheila Parisien has been “creating an unbearably verbally abusive environment.”

While not outlining any specific cases, MacLeod said that she had been “verbally abused” and suggested that a number of other department employees have left because of similar abuse in recent years.

It’s important to note these are merely allegations at this point. But it’s also important to note that school officials are bound by their own policies as to how to respond. Bullying regulations, like other policies, are not meant to target students alone.