During a work session Tuesday morning, board of education members reviewed and analyzed the newly revised Student Information and Code of Conduct for the Liberty County School System.
“It’s open for discussion so we can hopefully make the (final) revisions,” Title 1 Facilitator Harley Grove said of the conduct code, which is reviewed annually.
Members were asked to review the 82-page document, as were individual school committees, which included teachers, administrators, at least one parent, classified staff and a student, if appropriate.
“Each group was asked to provide feedback for recommended revisions,” according to a memo from Grove to LCSS Superintendent Dr. Judy Scherer and board members.
Changes throughout the document were made in red text, and eliminated items, which were denoted with black strikethroughs, included changes to the dress code, visitors in schools and bullying policies, among others.
BoE Chairwoman Lily Baker asked about several new updates, including the increase in suspension days from five to 10.
“Is there a reason behind that?” Baker asked.
“This is my understanding in terms of the background. … Several years ago when we went to block schedule, there was some discussion about the fact that 10 days out of school for a high-school student was more class or seat time than for an elementary- or middle-school student, and so they went with the five days out of school, five days in-school suspension,” Grove said.
“The attorneys, in reviewing our policies and our handbook, had recommended that we maintain what the state allows and that’s a maximum of 10 days to allow the tribunal process to occur, because we have had instances where students had fairly serious offenses at the high-school level that they’d been suspended for five days and had to go back to school for five ISS days before the tribunal could occur. And so, the attorneys had recommended we move to 10 days for everybody so seat time wasn’t a big issue,” the facilitator said.
Grove said the 10-day policy aligns the LCSS with state policies and procedures, which is what the system needs to do when it looks at making changes. It also is required that tribunals are held within a 10-day period.
Administrators still will have the option to decide whether to keep students on out-of-school suspension for the full 10 days, and may do so — especially for serious misconduct such as drug or weapon offenses.
A new change also requires that any time someone brings a weapon or dangerous instrument to school, it must be reported to the superintendent, Grove said.
“I’m glad it is in there for a written and not just a mental understanding,” Baker said.
Starting next year, elementary students will be suspended from school for multiple offenses of bringing a cell phone to school, another point that Baker and others questioned.
Students will receive a warning and a parent contact, then one day of in-school suspension, and continued offenses will place the student on out-of-school suspension.
“That was the recommendation from the elementary principals,” Grove said. “This was something that all of the elementary principals wanted to see changed. It was more of an issue of parents not monitoring what kids brought to school.”
Board member Carol Guyett questioned the validity of the new policy, but said she understands if it is what the majority of the principals want.
“I am concerned that a cell phone is going to take a kid out of school,” Guyett said. “And I would just like to get some numbers. I know some of them would prefer to handle it a different way — maybe some innovative punishment for this?
“Can we get a report of how many kids have been suspended for how many days because of cell phones in schools?” Guyett asked. “And then we’ll take a look at that. Not for this year, but I think we need to look at that.”