Good conduct policy under review
RIVERSIDE—The first reading of the good conduct policy for students involved in extracurricular activities raised some questions about the wording at the Highland School Board meeting Monday.
The good conduct policy is being reviewed after an incident last fall, said Highland School Board secretary and business manager Sue Rich.
A hotel room in Fort Dodge was damaged in November at the state cross-country meet. Tyler Beers was given a 30-day suspension from all activities on Nov. 8, 2013. He did not report the damaged hotel room to the proper authorities, even though after an investigation, Tyler was found uninvolved with the damage, his father, Alan Beers, said.
“It was maintained that Tyler was ‘guilty by association’ and that he should have reported the activities of the other students in the hotel room even though that is not stated in the handbook,” Alan said.
They hired an attorney and a hearing was held on Jan. 21 with an administrative law judge for the Iowa Board of Education. The Beers’ lawyer asked the Board of Education to reverse the school board’s decision to suspend Tyler. On March 6 the Iowa Board of Education met and voted for the suspension be reversed.
One of the proposed revisions to the good conduct policy is holding a student responsible for not reporting activities, such as property damage, to school officials.
The amended policy states a violation is “Engaging in any act that would be grounds for arrest or citation in the criminal or juvenile court system, or failing to leave the company of another or others engaging in such activity, despite having a reasonable opportunity to do so, or failing to report such conduct to the appropriate school personnel.”
“I guess I need clarification on that, or part, because I guess an example is if one of our students, outside of school, gets invited to a Highland party and they go there and other Highland students are, let’s say, drinking and they leave,” said school board member Tara Black, “they do as this says—they leave. Could they suffer any consequences based upon them leaving? And that’s all they do, is leave.”
Highland Community Superintendent Chris Armstrong said this paragraph was mainly addressing illegal activities, such as vandalizing school property.
“I just want to be very clear with this,” Black said. “I just feel like if one of our students, even if it wasn’t a party, they went somewhere and saw someone doing something illegal, wherever it may be, and they chose to leave—they did the right thing. I don’t agree with them also having to tell.”
School board member Lois Schneider said failure to report meant to her that the student would still be disciplined for not telling the proper authorities.
Armstrong said he was hearing two issues with the proposed policy. Whether or not the district will include the failure to report clause and what it would specifically deal with.
“Right,” Schneider said. “I don’t think this is clarifying anything. I mean, are we going to have —if that’s what we’re going to do, then that’s what we’re going to do. This is another one of those ‘how are you interpreting it?’ I want it clear.”
Another proposed change to the good conduct policy concerned some.
“After notification of a violation that would result in any suspension from an activity the coach, sponsor, must notify the individual and parents, guardians, by meeting with the individual within five school days,” the policy said.
Highland High School Principal Angela Hazelett suggested removing notifying the parent or guardian from that part of the paragraph.
Schneider asked what the timeline for the parents to be notified would be. She said she understood the student was being notified but not all students would tell their parents.
“I don’t the idea is to exclude parents,” Hazelett said. “I think it’s more about if you’re giving somebody a timetable of within five days the student has to be notified that means I have to do my investigation of this manner in five days and talk to the student. Now if I get to the fifth day and that’s the last day I have to talk to the student, but now I have to set up a meeting with the parent and work around their schedule, those kind of things, that makes that timeline pretty tough to meet.”
“As a parent, if my son’s going to be suspended from some school activity or something, I want to be notified prior to what is going on and have the right to participate in that decision,” Alan said.
Notifying the parent the same day the student is told should be a priority with the wording in the good conduct policy’s due process procedure, Alan said.
“Maybe taking out the five days but leaving in here the parent will be notified,” Black said. “The parent’s notified, not necessarily in a meeting but is notified, is contacted.”
School board Vice-President Mike Golden agreed with Black. He said the issue with the wording is notifying the parent. Armstrong said the board could think through the timeline some more before finalizing the good conduct policy. The second reading of the good conduct policy will be held at the May 12 school board meeting.
Other items discussed at the school board meeting included:
the budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year with the tax asking of $16.28 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation;
a budget amendment for the 2013-14 school year. The instruction part of the budget went from $4,864,724 to $5,120,000 and the total other expenditures increased from $1,193,467 to $1,250,000. The taxes for the 2013-14 year would not increase from this amendment, Rich said;
and approved purchasing a school bus from Hoglund Bus Company for $81,859.
The next school board meeting is scheduled for Monday April 28 at 5:30 p.m. in the high school board room.