WOODSTOCK — In a recent announcement sent to parents and guardians of students who attend Shenandoah County Public Schools, district officials said they “want all students to meet their full potential in a drug-free, supportive learning environment” and “experience a positive atmosphere free of bullying and other negative interactions.”

The announcement was sent by email and phone on Jan. 16, according to Superintendent Melody Sheppard.

It was sent two weekdays after the School Board’s Jan. 12 meeting at which a student at Signal Knob Middle School in Strasburg issued a plea for help against bullies.

The student had told the board that changes need to be made at the school in four categories: respect, bullying, property damage and maintaining discipline over students.

He said that students like himself are constantly bullied by other students at the school.

“We are mocked, insulted, punched, kicked, slapped, humiliated and so much more,” the student said. “I am constantly bullied by a large group of students who will punch, kick and mock me freely, with no punishment.”

Also at the Jan. 12 meeting, board member Brandi Rutz read a letter she had recently received from a student at North Fork Middle School in Quicksburg who has been bullied for the way they look. The bullies have gotten away with it, the student said in the letter.

Near the end of the Jan. 12 meeting, board member Kyle Gutshall said the members “need to do a lot of evaluating and reflecting on what we’re doing, what’s going on inside the (school) buildings, because clearly there are some issues going on that we need to address.”

He added that the board needs to “resolve the disrespect that the teachers are feeling, that students are feeling.”

Following is the full announcement that district officials sent on Jan. 16:

“To Parents and Guardians,

“We thank you for partnering with us to make your child’s education a positive and rewarding experience. We all desire the same outcomes. We want all students to meet their full potential in a drug-free, supportive learning environment. Also, we want students to experience a positive atmosphere free of bullying and other negative interactions. As we begin the second half of the school year we want to remind everyone about some very important elements that can unfortunately make school less than what we all want.

“SCPS policy JFCF states that students are prohibited from possessing, using, or distributing any of the restricted substances listed below on school property, on school buses, or during school activities, on or off school property. Students are prohibited from attempting to possess, use, consume, procure and/or purchase, any of the restricted substances listed below. Also, students are prohibited from being under the influence of any of these restricted substances, regardless of whether the student’s condition amounts to legal intoxication.

“Restricted substances include but are not limited to alcohol, tobacco products, nicotine vapor products, inhalant products, and other controlled substances, such as anabolic steroids, stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, marijuana, imitation and look-alike drugs, drug paraphernalia, and any prescription or non-prescription drug possessed in violation of School Board policy. This includes dab pens, vaping devices, and THC.

“It is important to know that if a student violates these policies, they are in jeopardy of a range of disciplinary consequences that may include but not be limited to social probation, suspension, or expulsion.

“As defined in Virginia Code 22.1-276.01 and SCPS Policy JFC, "Bullying" means any aggressive and unwanted behavior that is intended to harm, intimidate, or humiliate the victim; involves a real or perceived power imbalance between the aggressor and victim; and is repeated over time or causes severe emotional trauma. "Bullying" includes cyberbullying. "Bullying" does not include ordinary teasing, horseplay, argument, or peer conflict.

“Communication is a key element in the management of mean-spirited, hateful, and bullying-type behaviors. It is vital that students talk to a teacher, an administrator, or another trusted adult about any negative interactions they experience with anyone in school. School administrators will work to resolve any situations that involve negative behaviors but they have to know about it. Parents, please encourage your student to speak to an adult at school as soon as they can about any situations that make them feel uncomfortable or angry. The sooner it is reported the quicker a successful resolution can be achieved.

“Finally, Virginia code 22.1-279.3 and SCPS Policy JFC state that each parent of a student enrolled in Shenandoah County Public Schools has a duty to assist in enforcing the Standards of Student Conduct and compulsory school attendance. We want to partner with all parents and guardians to ensure that all students are in school every day, experience a positive learning environment, and reach their full potential. Please do not hesitate to reach out to your child’s teacher or principal if you have any questions or concerns.

“Thank you and let's have a great second half of the school year!”

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