Naperville District 203 policies now say racial slurs are unacceptable bullying
Three policies governing student conduct and consequences for improper behavior in Naperville Unit District 203 have been updated to make it clear racial slurs count as bullying and are unacceptable.
The school board approved new language for its policies on bullying, student behavior and co-curricular activity participation that add "verbal comments, racial, ethnic, religious or other slurs or threats" to a list of prohibited behaviors. The district updates these policies each year.
This year's updates came after a Naperville Central High School student posted an ad on Craigslist that showed a picture of a black student with the heading "Slave for Sale (NAPERVILLE)." The student who created the post was charged with hate crimes.
The update also comes as the city of Naperville approved a resolution denouncing racism and has a plan to improve diversity, equity and inclusion after episodes at a gas station, a restaurant and a bike path.
Nancy Voise, assistant superintendent of secondary education, said the policies on bullying, behavior and co-curricular activities are updated in concert so they can remain consistent. She said the process each year includes a discussion with students, staff members and parents about regulations in the code.
"Through this year's process, students shared that they did not believe it was well-known that derogatory comments and slurs could be considered bullying, and suggested we make this more explicit in our policy," Voise said.
Kristin Fitzgerald, school board president, said the board approved the addition of "racial, ethnic, religious or other slurs" to be sure students understand expectations for respectful conduct.
"The change in the policy reflects the ongoing work that we have, where we're wholly reviewing policies, procedures, programs, curriculum -- really all aspects of what we do to ensure we're creating and supporting an inclusive culture at all our schools and school communities," Fitzgerald said.
The updated policies now define bullying, intimidation or harassment as, but not limited to, "verbal comments, racial, ethnic, religious or other slurs or threats, physical gestures or actions, the use of email, web sites, social networking sites, voice mail, or any other verbal, written or electronic communication."
These behaviors can be considered bullying when they are on the basis of a long list of actual or perceived characteristics spelled out in the code.
Such behavior is prohibited during any school activity, while on school property, while using a school computer, network or other school-provided device, or whenever the activity "causes a substantial disruption to the educational process or orderly operation of a school.