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The Coeur d’Alene School Boards fights bullying; plus, Spokane firefighters fight changes to civil service rules

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Fighting the Bully

After months of outcry, committee debates and community discussion, the Coeur d’Alene School Board adopted a new anti-bullying policy during its four-and-a-half hour meeting on Monday.

Incoming school board member Christa Hazel, who served on the anti-bullying task force, says the new policy more clearly and precisely defines bullying, harassment and cyberbullying, and what staff and students are expected to do about it.

“The procedures will bring into play — which was one of my big concerns — parent involvement sooner,” Hazel says.

The district will be bringing in Steve Wessler, a long-time anti-bullying expert from Portland, Maine, to work with staff and students at least twice a year. He doesn’t come cheap, but school board chair Tom Hamilton is confident the district will find grant money and community sponsors to afford him.

An anti-bullying curriculum, however, has not yet been chosen, though rigorously tested curricula like the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program are being considered. Hamilton says the new direction will provide consistency of curriculum and consistency of enforcement.

“I’m happy with the policy, but that’s only as good as the paper it’s written on,” Hamilton says. To truly reduce the district’s bullying problem, he says, there must be a cultural shift that starts with administrators and parents.

“Beyond student bullying, we have issues of parents and staff who don’t behave the right way,” Hamilton says. “What can we do training-wise to protect kids from grownups who don’t act the right way?”

— DANIEL WALTERS

Fire Hazard

The union representing Spokane firefighters is mounting a lawsuit against the city over changes to departmental organization and CIVIL SERVICE rules the City Council approved and the mayor signed in April.

“The Ordinance’s violation of state law and the city charter is egregious,” write the union’s lawyers in a summons submitted to the city May 17 on behalf of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 29 and the Spokane Association of Fire Officers.

The ordinance created seven new departments within the fire department (and six within the police department), giving the mayor the ability to, with council approval, appoint the directors and assistant directors of those departments instead of those jobs being hired through the civil service process. Civil service rules, outlined in the City Charter, mandate certain hiring rules and tests in an effort to prevent nepotism or cronyism. Supporters of the ordinance, including Police Chief Frank Straub, said it would give department heads the ability to promote people they believe are best for certain job, but who may not perform as well on civil service tests. Opponents worried it could encourage the problems civil service was created to avoid.

City Spokesman Brian Coddington says the city will be “answering the lawsuit in the ordinary course,” but that he can’t comment on active litigation.

— HEIDI GROOVER

Top Cop

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich recently took over as president of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, which provides policy recommendations, legislative lobbying and department accreditation for law enforcement agencies statewide.

In the next year, Knezovich says the association hopes to help consolidate several intelligence networks and improve its certification procedures. A major priority, he says, will be integrating six separate gang intelligence databases to share information across jurisdictions statewide.

The association also plans to strengthen its firearms certification standards and continue work on a jail accreditation process. Knezovich says he hopes to renew a failed 2013 legislative bill to change arbitration rules to allow for the removal of officers found to have committed misconduct.

“We’re working on rewriting that bill,” he says.

Knezovich rotated into the president position in May after previously serving on the group’s executive board. He will head the board and various projects throughout a one-year term.

“WASPC does a lot of great work for the citizens of the state,” he says. “I really am humbled by the fact I was asked to be on the board.”

— JACOB JONES

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