Shaker District reports higher number of disciplinary actions, but less severe cases

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

BELMONT – While crowding on school buses has resulted in increased disciplinary action at Shaker School District, early intervention for behavior problems seems to be having a positive effect.

Elementary School officials told board members recently that a good deal of the discipline reports at Belmont Elementary School are caused by the same handful of students.

Administrator Ben Hill said much of the increase in disciplinary cases in the past two years can be attributed to a small number of students who ride the bus, and most of the other increases involve horseplay, refusals to cooperate and disruptive behavior.

One of the reasons for increased bus activity, he said, is the elimination of two buses, meaning there are more children on each bus.

Severe disciplines are not as high as they used to be, said officials, because teachers are trying to intervene earlier and creating more responsive classrooms using positive behavioral intervention techniques.

The good news is that the number of suspensions, either in school or out of school, has declined from 91.5 in 2014-15 to 30.5 in 2015-16. Administrators said early intervention has helped them keep more children in the classroom, as opposed to sending them to separate rooms or home.

Additionally, said Hill, 50 percent of the days for suspension can be attributed to one student.

The report presented to the School Board last month says Belmont Elementary School administrators have identified a need for staff training and more teachers need to be trained in responsive classroom techniques and positive behavior intervention strategies.

Belmont Middle School saw similar increases in the same categories of what administrators call the three "Ds" - disruptive, disrespect and defiance. They have also see a bump in cell phone use violations.

Many of these incidents, said Assistant Superintendent Aaron Pope, were single incidents with multiple participants and each participant get a violation.

Pope said that in 2015-16 they had a group of "aggressive eighth-grade students" but the school's goal is to keep him or her in a classroom for as much of the day as possible, rather than send a child into the Student Support Center for the entire day during an in-school suspension.

"We want teachers to handle it," said Pope.

Administrators said they asked the students what they would like to see changed and, as expected, many replied they want changes in the cell phone policy and dress codes, which the school is not willing to change.

All administrators for all three Belmont schools said absenteeism and truancy is their biggest concern.

All administrators said that they have been known to got to homes from which students have high truancy rates. They said the school resource officer occasionally goes, but that it's not really their job.

There is no "truant" officer in Belmont.

The administrators also said some parents find it acceptable to pull a child from school for an entire week. When the administration tells them that only so many absences are allowed per trimester, some parents have a hard time hearing that.

"We're OK with the push back (from parents)," Pope said. "We want kids in school."

Belmont High School administrators are all new to the school district but said after a preliminary review of the statistics, they would like to see an in-school suspension option such as the Student Support Center at the Middle School. The issue, they said, is a lack of space.

Belknap House shelter operations draws concerns

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Leonard Campbell of New Hampshire Catholic Charities Inc. spoke to the City Council this week, seeking to allay concerns raised by councilors about the operation of Belknap House, which will offer shelter to homeless families between October and May.

Campbell provided the councilors with written responses to 29 questions, ranging from how Belknap House will finance its operations to where will families go when they leave the shelter.

Campbell explained that Belknap House will serve only families, not individuals, and only families from Belknap County, who must be referred to the shelter by one of the 10 towns in the county. With capacity for 19 individuals, he said the maximum number of families at the shelter would be nine, assuming eight families of two and one of three.

The towns will contract with Belknap House to provide shelter and the welfare directors of the towns and the director of Belknap House will develop guidelines for admission. No one convicted of domestic abuse or serious criminal charges would be admitted and no drugs, alcohol or weapons will be permitted on the property. The town of origin will be responsible for educating any children at the shelter, including the cost of transporting them to school.

Foremost among the concerns of councilors was the prospect that when their stay at the shelter, comes to an end, families will remain in Laconia and seek assistance from the city. Campbell explained that state law prescribes that the town that refers families to Belknap House will be responsible for finding them shelter or providing them assistance once they leave. "Laconia is protected," he said.

The goal, Campbell said, is to limit stays at Belknap House to three weeks, after which they will be expected to return to their town of origin. Likewise, if families violate the rules of Belknap House and are asked to leave, he said they would be expected to go to the town they came from. He said that Belknap House would inform the welfare director in Laconia of a family leaving the shelter and of their town of origin.

However, Campbell he acknowledged that if a family found shelter or employment in another municipality, including Laconia, "Belknap House cannot force where a person will go."

"How can you say they will go to their town of origin?" asked Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5). "I see a big burden to Laconia."

Mayor Ed Engler wondered if the business plan for Belknap House had changed from providing shelter in the winter months for the "permanent" homeless population in the city.

Campbell replied that "We're not serving Laconia's homeless population," explaining that the most urgent need is shelter for the 200 children in the county identified as homeless. Serving families and children, he emphasized, requires a "dry shelter," devoid of drugs and alcohol.

Referring to the "River Crew," the homeless group tended by Elaine Morrison and Dick Smith, Campbell said "with them, we couldn't have a dry shelter. They are alcoholics, and they're not ever going to be anything else." He allowed some may go through spells of sobriety, but added that their likelihood of remaining sober "is between nil and none."

"Families we can make a difference with," Campbell told the council.

Free the Nipple protests enforcement of Gilford beach ordinance

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILFORD — The Free the Nipple movement took to the streets Sunday afternoon holding a small topless protest along Route 11A in front of the police station about the continued enforcement of a town beach ordinance ruled unenforceable by Circuit Court judge last year.

Local spokeswoman and Gilford resident Heidi Lilley said she and her friends held signs while topless for about two hours in the state right-of-way to protest being asked to leave Gilford Beach by a head lifeguard and police twice in the past two weeks for either being topless or wanting to be topless while sunbathing.

Dunn said the policy now for Gilford Beach is that anyone who appears topless will be asked to either cover up or leave. Should they chose not to do either, he said police will be charging them with criminal trespass.

When asked about Carroll's 2015 ruling, Dunn said, "Circuit Court judges do not make case law."

Last year, Lilley and one friend were cited by police for violating the Gilford Beach town ordinance, which is a violation and punishable by a fine. They challenged the citation in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division and their attorney Daniel Hynes filed a motion to dismiss the charges.

Hynes claimed the ordinance violates the First and Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and that the town cannot pass and enforce an ordinance that is not made criminal by the state criminal code.

Presiding 4th Circuit Court Justice Jim Carroll ruled Carroll ruled against Lilley by saying that the ordinance didn't violate any state or federal constitutional privileges.

However, he also ruled that Gilford's ordinance is unenforceable, agreeing with Hynes that a town has no right to make something a criminal offense that is not already a criminal offense and included in the state criminal code.

Those charges against Lilley and Barbara McKinnon were dismissed.

The town had the opportunity to appeal Carroll's ruling to the state Supreme Court but chose not to because it would have cost as much as $10,000 to argue it, and the results could not be guaranteed to be in the town's favor.

"Every order speaks for itself," said Carole Alfano, the public information officer for the state judicial branch

Lilley said that during her first trip they had called ahead and were met by three police officers as they arrived at the beach. She said they were told by one of the officers there is a town ordinance prohibiting them from being topless at Gilford Beach and that if they persisted, they would be charged with criminal trespassing – a class B misdemeanor, and not a violation.

On Sunday, Aug. 7, four of them went to Gilford Beach. She said they went to the far side of the beach and that one woman was topless, one wore a bikini top but her nipples were exposed, and two wore shirts that were open in the front.

Lilley said they were enjoying the beach for about two hours when the head lifeguard came over and told them to leave. Shortly, three Gilford Police officers arrived, told them to cover up or leave, and threatened them with criminal trespass charges if they didn't.

She said they left and conducted the protest in front of the police station and Gilford Town Hall from about 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. She said police did not bother them during the protest and that in their two encounters with them at Gilford Beach they were at all times polite and professional.

"We have no issue with the police," Lilley said, adding that the Free the Nipple campaign problem is with the town ordinance and the threats of criminal charges.

Dunn said Wednesday that it is his understanding that being topless at a protest in the state right-of-way broke no state or town laws so there was no police response.

He said that, to the best of his knowledge, the town only prohibits toplessness at the town beach and nowhere else.

Lilley said that aside from one woman who she said left the police station, people who drove by honked their horns and were generally supportive of the Free the Nipple Campaign.

She said the woman mentioned about screamed at them and called them "nasty" and other names.
"I feel sorry for her children," said Lilley. "So young and to have her teaching her children that the female body is nasty and ugly."

Free the Nipple campaign is about "slut-shaming" and and the rights of women not to be judged by their bodies. One of their goals is for people to recognize the rights of woman with regard to their bodies to be the same as men, and to disabuse the theory that women who are rapes somehow brought it upon themselves because of how they were dress and how they look.