PENDLETON - The Pendleton School District assured the Umatilla County Safe Schools Task Force Wednesday that it works hard to stop and prevent bullying and harassment.

"We are and have been taking a serious stance against bullying," Pendleton School District Superintendent Jim Keene told the task force.

Keene said his employees began risk management training during an in-service day last spring with consultant Mark Thompson. Teachers and staff will continue to be trained throughout the summer and into the fall.

"Our goal is that by October we will have all staff at all schools in the district trained," said Roger Stueckle, director of elementary services for the Pendleton School District.

Punishment for students involved in bullying or harassment was discussed, and Sunridge Middle School Principle Dennis O'Hara said that suspension is not always the answer.

"Suspending them gives them vacation," O'Hara said. "Take away their social life, though, that's devastating to a middle school student."

O'Hara said options include taking away social activities such as attendance at a school dance or a field trip.

Vicki Read, a counselor at Pendleton High School, expressed concern about bullying and harassment that still goes on at the high school level.

"By the time they're juniors and seniors, we think of them as adults," Read said. "But many are not adults as far as their maturation. There's still a lot of bullying in the high school, and we still need to address it there."

Keene said the district needs to figure out a way to "tailor this enforcement to the high school level" to prevent future bullying and harassment.

O'Hara said that since 1995, the level of referrals for student discipline has gone down from 1,500 in a single year to 331.

"I'm very proud of Sunridge because I think it's gone a long ways," O'Hara said.

Keene suggested the Task Force select a liaison to meet with the Safe Schools and Character Education committees through the district to better involve the district.

The Task Force will give a presentation to the Pendleton School Board at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 11 at the district office.

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