Theodore Roosevelt once said “Knowing what's right doesn't mean much unless you do what's right.”

These words could be used to describe the Five Town Community School District and School Administrative District 28 policy on bullying in schools.

“One thing we rely on is the students holding each other to task when an incident of bullying takes place,” Superintendent Elaine Nutter said. “When a student sees another using that kind of behavior, and they know it's wrong, we would hope that they would speak up and say ‘hey that’s not nice,' or 'you’re being mean’ or something to acknowledge that behavior and then report it.”

As an educator for many years, Nutter has seen numerous instances of bullying and singles out two distinct reasons for what she feels is the increased need for policies.

“I think bullying has been a problem in society as long as there has been society, but with the effects of technology, it has magnified the matter,” she said.

Nutter said the public nature of technology — the instant access to people through social networks — has really turned bullying into a bigger issue. What once might have been someone pushing or calling names only would and could happen if you were in the same place at the same time. Now, with the use of technology, there is no safe place.

“It used to be you could go home and at least know that you were protected from it (bullying) for the time. Technology, cell phone, texting has changed that.”

The other reason Nutter this has been more of an issue lately is the idea that children are exposed to things through movies, television and other forms of media that makes them believe those kinds of behaviors are acceptable.

“If I could eliminate one thing in the world it would be name-calling because I feel that is a gateway, that is where it all starts,” Nutter said. “It is an entry point for all kinds of other things, and we live in a society where kids get exposure to that through entertainment. It is a situation where it is seen by kids as normal behavior when it really isn't. We should never think that school violence is normal behavior, I will not accept that bullying and school violence is normal behavior.”

The school districts have written policies that outline the expected behavior of students and staff. The policies overlap, in many cases, dealing with multiple situations. There are policies that deal with bullying, harassment, sexual harassment and discrimination.

“There are multiple policies that all have to do with students treating each other in a civil and respectful manner,” she said.”It is the same for the CSD and the SAD — bullying is prohibited.”

A new law defines bullying as an act or acts that harm a student or a student's property, or puts them in fear of harm. It is also defined as conduct that makes it difficult for a victim to do well in school or take part in school activities.

The law requires schools to investigate suspected cases of bullying, keep records of incidents and calls for staff training. Cyberbullying is defined as bullying through the use of technology or any electronic communication, including a computer, telephone, cell phone, text messaging device or personal digital assistant. The law was passed by Legislature and signed by Gov. Paul LePage in May 2012.

In order to decide if an incident falls under the district's bullying policy it must meet one of three characteristics as seen by a “reasonable person “ — the effect of physically harming a student, damaging a student’s property or placing a student in fear of harm or damage to property.

“If a reasonable person, given the situation feels threatened in any way, it is considered bullying,” Nutter said. “If the behavior creates a hostile environment and doesn’t allow the student to attend class — it affects their ability to learn — it is considered bullying.”

Making fun of a person's race, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, weight, religion, physical or mental disability is considered bullying.

“For example, I am not really a Native American, but [if] someone make slurs towards me believing I am, that is considered bullying.” Nutter said.

Even derogatory comments made about a student’s association with a person with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics or any other distinguishing characteristics is prohibited under the district's policy.

This policy applies to bullying that takes place at school, on school grounds, at any school-sponsored or school-related activity or event. This also includes the bus or school transportation.

“Anytime there is a complaint, and students don’t even need to know if it is a legitimate complaint, but if they think it might be harassment we encourage them to talk to a building administrator or adult,” she said. “Students may have to speak to more than one person sometimes to make sure they are being heard, but we always encourage them to speak up.”

Nutter added, ”Sometimes kids couch things in language that hides what is really going on."

For example, a girl might say “he’s bothering me," which might mean he is laying hands on her, but she is too embarrassed to say so.

"So we have trained staff to ask further qualifying questions in cases like that,” she said.

The district's mission is clear in that these behaviors will not be tolerated and by reaching the children at a young age, bad behaviors might not get them in trouble later in life where the consequences may reach beyond the school system.

Students who violate school policy on bullying may be subject to disciplinary action, which may include suspension and expulsion.

“I always tell kids that this could not be just Mrs. Nutter, or Ms. Libby or Mr. Bode sitting here talking to you, it could be someone from law enforcement because there are both civil and criminal penalties connected,” she said.

Nutter also feels that it is important that the younger kids, as they get older, understand this so as they move on into middle school the behaviors have a better chance of not following them through life.

Employees, volunteers, contract workers all fall under the bullying policy, as well as the students. Administration and staff who violate the policy can be subject to disciplinary action and could even be dismissed if the actions warrant it. Volunteers, contractors and visitors who violate this policy will be barred from school property until the superintendent is satisfied that the person will comply with Maine’s bullying law and the policy.

“Let's say there was a game and somebody in the audience was yelling at the kids," Nutter said. "They could be barred from the property and not be allowed to return to games until a reasonable assurance they will desist those behaviors.”

Camden Herald reporter Dwight Collins can be reached at 236-8511 or dcollins@courierpublicationsllc.com.