LGBTQ club approved by Shaker Board

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

BELMONT — The Shaker School Board unanimously agreed to give a charter to the Equality Alliance Club, which gives formal recognition to a club that has provided support to the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered and questioning students at the high school.

Proposed by school nurse Sue Ruppe, the chartered club is recommended by the National Association of School Nurses who have said that school nurses are in the best position to oversee and advocate for students who identify with the LGBTQ community.

Ruppe cited statistics that show that this is a segment of the student body that can be subjected greater level of bullying, harassment and violence, although she did not say this is the case at Belmont High School.

According to the National Association of School Nurses, transgendered students can fare worse than all of the others by missing more school, having lower grades and feeling they are often not a part of the school community as a whole.

The association's study, presented to the School Board Tuesday night, said that LGBTQ students are more likely than their heterosexual peers to experience loneliness, lack of acceptance, sexually transmitted infections, anxiety, depression and suicide.

Ruppe said the rational behind sanctioning the club, which exists already according to some students but in a non-chartered form, is to provide for a student-led school group that promotes inclusiveness, understanding and a healthy school climate such that the well-being of all students can be safeguarded.

Shaker Regional School Board passed policy in August of 2015 that specifies how the district handles "transgender and gender nonconforming students."

Specifically, the policy states that a student can use whichever bathroom he or she identifies with and is also entitled to use a single-stall bathroom if requested. The use of locker rooms is done on a case-by-case basis.

The policy goes on to say that students are allowed to be called and identified by the name and gender they prefer and any violation of this is an infraction, whether committed by a student or a professional employee of the school district.

When contacting parents, school personnel will use the students given name and identity unless the child's parent has indicated something else. The school recognizes a student's right to keep one's status at school private and personal and it shall not disclose information to the contrary to others, including parents, unless the student has authorized them to do that.

Permanent school records will be kept with the original name and birth gender; however, the district is not required to use a student's legal name or gender on other school records. For testing purposes, staff and administrators shall adopt practices that will not inadvertently disclose confidential information.

'The Alt' partners with Downtown Gym for nontraditional high school program

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — The Laconia Alternative Education Program, known as "The Alt," has partnered with the Downtown Gym to provide physical education to its students for the first time since the program began a decade ago.

Janet Brough, marketing and training coordinator for the school district, said that program shares space with the Laconia Senior Center on Canal Street, just around the corner from the gym on Main Street.

"Janine Page reached out to us and we started a pilot program in May," she said.

On Wednesdays the students spend 45 minutes at the gym between 10:30 and 11:15 a.m.

"Since their regular program does not include physical education, this is an opportunity for them, " she said. "And they can work off some energy."

There are 28 students, from grades 9 through 12, enrolled in "The Alt" from Laconia and the other five districts that send students to the Huot Technical Center — Gilford, Belmont, Inter-Lakes, Winnisquam and Franklin.

Matt Dubois, who teaches mathematics, said that apart from occasional hikes and field trips, the students at "the Alt" spend their time in the classroom and the time at the gym is a welcome respite. He explained that science, mathematics, English and social studies are taught at "The Alt," but the focus is more on the students than subjects.

"We are teaching them how to be successful students," he said.

The students, he said, are not performing well in a conventional school setting and instruction at "The Alt" aims to prepare them to re-enter the school system or continue their education at night school or online.

At the gym, they split into two or three groups. A handful took to cycling. More tried the weight and strength training machines to test their upper bodies, while others joined Trish Tryon, one of the trainers at the gym, to use free weights to work their lower bodies.

Greg, a 16-year-old from Inter-Lakes who was working out on a treadmill, said he looks forward to returning to school and playing football in the fall and lacrosse in the spring. Pedaling a cycle, Hailee from Laconia High School said she enjoyed the time at the gym and away from from the classroom, but doubted that her experience in the gym would lead her to exercise regularly.

Nancy Hood, who teaches English exercised alongside the students.

"We are focused on the students," she said. "We work the kinks out and create students again."

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Matt Dubois (standing, center) of the Laconia Alternative Education Program joined his students at the Downtown Gym where they take time away from classes to exercise on Wednesday mornings.  (Michael Kitch photo/Laconia Daily Sun)

 

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Trish Tryon (right) introduces students from ther Laconia Alternative Education Program to doing squats with free weights at the Downtown Gym, whiere they spend an hour on Wednesday mornings working off energy.  (Michael Kitch photo/Laconia Daily Sun)

Shaker Board delays decision on the use of drones at school events

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

BELMONT — A local teen's desire to use his drone to record team practices and other school events is still on hold after the Shaker School Board asked the policy committee to take a further look at the policy.

The policy committee will consider allowing limited uses of drones at certain school practices and provide standards for drones and certifications for their pilots.

Devin Poslusny is a junior at Belmont High School who has 11 hours of flight time with his DJI Phantom 3, and has flown 170 flights and logged 19,165 feet. He agreed that while recording practices from the air, he would not fly directly over individuals at events.

He explained all of the safety features incorporated in his drone and agreed not to fly in any inclement weather or in winds blowing 22 mph or greater. During the time Devin talked to the board, videos he had taken of other non-school sporting events played where the board members could see them.

School Board members seemed supportive but were still unsure how to approach the drone policy, with the possible exception of Bob Reed, who asked Devin if he felt comfortable enough with his skills to fly the drone in the crowded, low ceiling library at the elementary school which was the site of Tuesday night's meeting.

Devin hedged a little, told them he would feel somewhat comfortable, but did not fly the drone.

According to the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association, drones are prohibited at all competitive events.

Devin told the board that he and his father did some research and discovered that there was an incident with some RC helicopters but that a drone like his is a very different thing.

Superintendent Maria Dreyer said overhead flying is what concerns her, while member Heidi Chaney said she would like a specific legal agreement with Devin or whoever would potentially follow in his shoes.

Cheney also added that the Belmont Police Department is against allowing drones and Dreyer added that their concerns are based on privacy issues. Cheney said Primex, the school district's insurance carrier, didn't say no but didn't say yes either.

"A typical wishy, washy response," said Chairman Sean Embree, adding that he is concerned about liability and indicated he wished for more direction.

Member Gretta Olsen-Wilder suggested writing a policy for now that refers to Devin's proposal as a pilot program or a "wait and see." She also said it should be restricted to school use only and not allow outsiders to use drones on the property.

Embree noted that Devin would like to know whether he can record soccer practices that begin in early August.

Olsen-Wilder chairs the policy committee and said she would schedule a meeting soon.

Bryant resigns

In other Shaker School District news, Belmont member Richy Bryant resigned his seat earlier this month because of family commitments. The board is seeking someone to serve out his term that ends in March of 2017.

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Devin Poslusny flies his drone during a video program he produces. (File photo)