Schools chancellor talks bullying policy, expanding programs at Little Neck town hall meeting

Farina in Little Neck
Photo by Suzanne Monteverdi/QNS

The head of the city’s Department of Education visited a Little Neck school on Tuesday night for an open forum focused on northeast Queens students and parents.

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña fielded questions on a number of topics at the Oct. 17 event. After selecting from inquiries submitted by parents on notecards and via email, District 26’s Community Education Council members presented them to the chancellor in M.S. 67’s auditorium.

“It’s always a pleasure to be in District 26,” Fariña began. “I know that [M.S. 67] is a school that’s always in the front, doing innovative things.”

The chancellor was asked what the city agency was doing to educate students about bullying, what training teachers were given to identify it, and what the agency’s protocol for reporting suicide threats is.

Fariña said she and her team have been working to define the different ways bullying may manifest itself at different ages in an effort to help teachers and administrators more effectively identify and report it.

The chancellor also said the city agency is actively looking into making apps available to students that would define the different forms of bullying and allow them to report it to authorities.

When it comes to reporting incidents, the chancellor continued, the issue is made complicated by a misalignment between city and state policy about what needs to be reported. Fariña said she and state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia are currently in talks to better coordinate the two agencies’ reporting systems.

She also said the city agency is actively looking into which schools may need more counselors to address certain issues.

“I think this is something we’ve done a lot of work on — obviously we can do a lot more work,” she said.

The educator was also asked when the ‘3-K For All’ preschool program — which was recently announced to be expanding to southwest Queens in the next school calendar year — would be implemented in District 26 schools. The program, modeled after the Universal Pre-K For All initiative, offers free, full-day nursery-level education at public schools and community based organizations partnering with the city’s Department of Education.

Fariña told District 26 parents to “stay tuned.”

The educator also commented on the Chancellor’s Regulations — a set of guidelines broaching a series of topics, including hiring policies, school budgeting and student-related issues — which she called “outdated.”

“One of the things I’ve certainly become much more aware of in the last month has been that a lot of our Chancellor’s Regs, in particular, are very outdated,” she said.

In result, Fariña said she has put together a committee to examine, clarify or rework certain regulations that require an update.

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