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Boulder Valley School District is considering adding a policy on civility, mainly to give staff members an added layer of protection against threatening, bullying or abusive language from students or parents.

“We have to draw some boundaries,” Superintendent Rob Anderson said. “People can get really passionate about their kids, probably more than anything else. We want to engage with civility. This policy sends a strong message to our community on the things we value.”

The school board is expected to vote on whether to approve the new policy at its Dec. 10 meeting.

District officials said two recent decisions illustrate the lack of civility used when parents and students disagree.

Boulder Valley received hundreds of complaints on social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, after the school district decided not to call a snow day during an October winter storm.

Examples included, “You really want us to die, huh?,” “The spookiest thing this Halloween is the clowns who run the school district” and “I hope you hit your head and die.”

School district spokesman Randy Barber said he removed a couple hundred complaints, mainly for profanity. Others were removed because they contained threatening language, while one student’s threats were violent enough that they were forwarded to school administration for follow-up, he said.

Barber said school staff members also recently were blasted by a few parents angry over the district’s decision to set a deadline to supply vaccination paperwork.

“Parents were just berating staff on the phone,” he said.

Boulder Valley isn’t unique in receiving complaints over snow day decisions. St. Vrain Valley School District also received hundreds of complaints on social media, many laden with profanity, during that October storm over the decision not to call a snow day.

One person wrote on St. Vrain’s Facebook page, “When I crash into a ditch, my blood is on your hands.” Another wrote, “I’m gonna crash to prove a point.” Clown memes and a poll to impeach Superintendent Don Haddad also were among the responses.

And in Jefferson County, the vitriol over a snow day decision prompted Superintendent Jason Glass to post a strongly worded letter to the community calling out the responses and ending with “We are better than this, Jeffco.”

In Boulder Valley, the new civility code of conduct would prohibit threatening people and property, bullying, belittling and using abusive or obscene language. The policy also would prohibit “using social media to engage in any of the behavior identified, including but not limited to, targeting individuals with false and demeaning images and content.”

While the policy includes social media, Anderson said, it’s “a wild and crazy place” where fake accounts make it difficult to track people.

“It’s very, very challenging,” he said.

If personal harm is threatened, staff members are directed to contact school district security and law enforcement. As is the case now, the district also may limit or ban a parent from a school campus for threatening behavior.

If a staff member is the target of uncivil remarks, the staff member is encouraged to “calmly and politely admonish the speaker to communicate civilly.” If that doesn’t work, the staff member may end the meeting, conference or phone conversation.

If a voice message or email is ” is “demeaning, abusive, threatening or obscene,” the employee may ignore it.  A visitor to school district property who is violating the code of civility may be asked to leave, and police called if the person refuses.

“It’s empowering for a teacher to know they have the support from this board and this district to disengage,” Anderson said.

Terri Mulford, president of the Boulder Valley Education Association, said she Is pleased the district is considering a civility policy.

“It’s a long time coming,” she said. “This puts a lot more teeth in the way we expect parents and our community to treat educators. The same goes for educators. If we expect to be treated in a civil manner, we need to respond in kind.”

She said educators have been particularly frustrated with being portrayed negatively on social media by students or parents.

“They feel like there isn’t an avenue of recourse,” she said. “With this policy, there are things they can do if it’s not reflective of the code of civility.”

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