BOE discusses policy changes
By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer
A number of policy updates are under review by the Chilton County Board of Education.
The Board held a work session on Nov. 5 to discuss the updates.
Proposed changes were a part of the Alabama Association of School Boards recommendations in light of new laws in Alabama.
Policy changes will be voted on at a later date. Board attorney Dianne Gamble will work on integrating the updates into the policy manual for the board.
As the board reviewed the recommendations, some of the recommendations were found to be only slightly different from current policies, while others were new because of new laws.
The proposed student conduct and curriculum policies were found to be exactly the same as the existing policy.
Changes to the Alabama Released Time Credit Act have allowed for the inclusion of religious courses offered off campus during school hours that meet the criteria to qualify as released time credit. The Board discussed removing these updates from the list since there were no known courses of this type in the county.
Admission to schools
Changes to this portion of the policy adds language about custodial parent/ legal guardianship and what defines a child’s residency, Gamble said. She commented that the language could be “helpful” in situations in questions of enrollment and withdrawal of students.
During the discussion, Superintendent Jason Griffin said students who are “under 19 years old and on track to graduate from public school may not be denied admission to public school solely on the fact of his or her age.”
Griffin said some other school systems denied students admission based on their age, and it has wound up in court.
Gamble said this policy does not specifically address this issue, but state law does.
She said some school systems had students who were 17 or 18 and transferring from another school system as freshmen and the school system would not accept them.
“Typically, if they can’t graduate by their 19th birthday, we don’t accept them,” Isabella High School Principal Ricky Porter said, commenting on general education students coming from other school systems.
Special Education students can remain enrolled in school until age 21.
Griffin said implementation of this policy would be something discussed with principals at a future meeting.
The school board will continue to prohibit the transportation of students to school events in their personal vehicles. However, parents of students can transport groups of students in their personal vehicle to school events off-campus, if the proper paperwork has been filled out. Parents/ Guardians have to give written permission for the student to ride with the specific person.
“The board does not assume responsibility for the safe operation of vehicles that are not owned or operated by the school system,” Griffin said.
Gamble said the difference from the existing policy was adding the portion about the board not having liability.
Updates would list additional tobacco products of what is prohibited and gives definitions. Porter said this is not as much of an issue has it had been in the past.
“When was the last time we actually enforced this with our employees?” board member Chris Smith said.
“I do not know of any allegations of tobacco use at all,” Griffin said.
Board member Angie Sullivan said this policy also needed to be enforced for students during after-school activities on campus.
Proposed updates would add large political signs and billboards, wearing political button or clothing and banners to the list of prohibited political items for school board employees.
OMB Part 200
Proposed updates would change the limit on when the board has to accept proposals for professional contract services paid for with federal or child nutrition funds from $150,000 to $250,000.
Paid sick leave
Initially, the update would have said principals or direct supervisors may ask for a note from a physician if they have reason to believe the employee was not sick but was using the day. If the sick leave policy was violated, disciplinary action could be taken.
During the discussion, simply stating direct supervisor was preferred. However, in a teacher’s case, this would be the principals. Teachers get three personal days and nine sick days a year.
“The superintendent’s association calls this ‘The Walt Disney World’ law,” Griffin said. “What you have is employees that go to Walt Disney World or wherever during the school year and they put that on social media, so they are providing proof that they are violating the sick leave policy.”
Gamble said in the example given the supervisor would already have proof that the policy was violated.
Any unused personal days roll into sick days for the next year, Sullivan said. Porter pointed out that this was state law and the days could not roll over as personal days.
Porter said would not require a note every time someone is absent because of the amount of paperwork he already deals with.
“Almost every employee takes at least one day a month,” Porter said.
Griffin said the personal director will also be doing training with employees on correctly using days.
This policy would allow excess cafeteria food to be donated to students on the free and reduced lunch program to take home with them. Board members said they would rather give it to students in need than see it thrown away.
Jamari Terrell Williams Student Bullying Prevention Act
“This gives the school system the opportunity to enforce disciplinary action against someone if it happens away from school,” Griffin said.
This includes cyberbullying of students.
The act defines bullying as “a continuous pattern of intentional behavior” which creates a hostile environment, causes fear of harm or disrupts the student’s learning.
This proposed policy states that if the board makes a mistake in following Robert’s Rules of Order, while approving something, the action taken by the board will still be valid.
Supervision of low risk juvenile sex offenders
This policy outlines the requirements for a plan to monitor the student while providing education. Local law enforcement is now required by law to notify the school superintendent in writing. Griffin said this has not happened yet, although there is a low risk juvenile sex offender attending a Chilton County School. Gamble said law enforcement are likely still being trained on the law and suggested reaching out to them.
The principal of the school had been notified prior to the student enrolling. A plan has been put in place for monitoring the students, although it was not necessarily written down.
The proposed policy mentions having a team of people coming together to develop the plan.
In the past, PASS Academy has been used as a part of this plan for older students in this category, according to Special Education Director Michelle Coppedge.
Gamble suggested considering adding PASS Academy as a standing option through the school board and making it a part of the plan.
Prohibition of aiding and abating sexual abuse
This prohibits school board employees from knowingly helping someone who had sexual misconduct with a child to get another job.