Marysville school district officials are trying to assure parents that their children are safe at school.

Marysville school district officials are trying to assure parents that their children are safe at school.

During a Sept. 29 school board meeting, district officials responded to complaints about a recent incident involving several boys at Bunsold Middle School.

Superintendent Larry Zimmerman would not discuss the specifics of the incident or how or whether the students involved where punished, citing privacy laws, but said they were "disciplined."

"Our goal is to make sure our kids learn from messing up," Zimmerman said. "They ought to have the opportunity to move forward. Our goal as a district is to not have any issues, but we always will because kids will choose to make bad decisions."

Parents criticized the way administrators handled the incident, saying rumors could be exaggerating what actually had occurred.

Many said they were under the impression that the students involved were not punished and said they want the district to be tough on bullying and harassment.

Zimmerman said he chose to not issue a letter to parents because it did not affect or threaten all students.

"The kids weren't at risk," he said.

Whether the incident will be counted as one of harassment or bullying depends on how building administrators classify it, Zimmerman said.

The Ohio Department of Education defines bullying as "harassment, intimidation or bullying means any intentional written, verbal, graphic or physical act or electronically transmitted acts that a student or group of students exhibited toward other particular student(s) more than once and the behavior both causes mental or physical harm to the other student; and is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive that it creates an intimidating, threatening or abusive educational environment for the other student."

It can be difficult to tell where horseplay ends and bullying begins, Zimmerman said, adding that a student's intent is a factor in determining how he or she is disciplined.

"What starts as horseplay may end up being seen as a bullying situation. (Bullying) is a lot of different things to a lot of different people," Zimmerman said. "The kids learned something from this and that's who we are. We are a teaching institution."

Ohio school districts are required to track reports of harassment and bullying.

Sixty-five incidents of harassment were reported during the 2010-11 school year, according to the district's website.

In other news, Zimmerman said he met with lawmakers to discuss House Bill 136, which, if passed, would allow parents to use taxpayer money to send children to private and parochial schools.

The bill would take away state funding for each child who leaves Marysville schools.

"Financially, it would be devastating," Zimmerman said but added that his biggest concern is fairness and providing quality education to all students. "Private schools can take whoever they want. Public school has to accept everyone."

The board also:

• Voted to establish a basketball intramural activity account for a Bunsold Middle School boys basketball program.

• Discussed progress on the search for a new superintendent. The board plans to hold a special meeting Oct. 10 to discuss the results of recent community meetings.

The next board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 27 at district headquarters, 1000 Edgewood Drive.