By Kelsey Buck
Proposed changes to the 5-12 Student Handbook were presented at the Emmetsburg school board meeting last week. The changes would go into effect for the 2013-14 school year.
Teachers and administration have been working together to make adjustments to reflect what is currently happening in the respective buildings. Topics covering course requirements, attendance policy, automobile use, electronic devices and bullying were all discussed with the board.
Assistant principal, Tracie Christensen, clarified that Algebra II is not required by the state but recommended. "We honestly have some students right now struggling with algebra. My concern is, are we setting them up for failure and dropping out by the time they get to be a senior because they can't complete algebra II?" said Christensen. "I did a bunch of checking to find another school district that requires algebra II in Iowa and I have not found one yet. I certainly think we need to push our kids by showing them what is required at our state colleges where you need algebra II, but those students who don't have that track and want to get a job or go to community college, let's do what we can to help them get there, not stop them before they get out this door."
Attendance has brought up several conversations among teachers. "We wanted something more concrete with attendance," said Christensen. "We have some students with attendance issues and there are holes in our policies that didn't give us a lot of room with what we could do. I would like to see notice go home sooner to parents just to open those lines of communication with parents." A 3-6-9 policy would require notice to be sent to parents at 3 absences, a second notice at 6 and third notice with contact with school and administration at 9 absences. At 12 absences, a conference will be held to discuss class standing and possible consequences of withdrawal, suspension, loss of credit and/or an assignment to a study hall.
Registering student vehicles would allow staff to identify the owners of vehicles. Each vehicle would have a sticker on the inside of their back window with a number on it so it can be easily identified. "When we have students parked in the loading area, I can go out and pull numbers and call them between class so they can move them and it doesn't take me two hours to accomplish that," said Christensen. "The last district I was at, if we had to have you move your vehicle, you paid a $5 fine and they keep track of that. It doesn't take long before they start parking the right way."
Christensen described the old policy for misuse of electronic devices, which states the school would keep the device until a detention was served. This became difficult to fulfill right away due to activities and weekends. "We can not legally take a kid's personal device and hang on to them," explained Christensen. "We wanted to get that out of our policy and simply hang on to them until the end of the day."
The good conduct policy needed clarification concerning ineligibility. It currently states ineligibility begins from the first day of contest, which to some could mean the first day of practice. "It's the first day their eligible to play a game," said Christensen. "We actually just pulled the language straight from the state site so that's just for clarification."
Founded cases of bullying would also be a good conduct violation. The state requires four distinct paths to be followed to be a founded case of bullying. "It has to be happening over a period of time and the kid has been talked to," said Christensen. "There's been communication about it and it places the other kid in fear of their person."
Board president, B.J. Schany, requested more information regarding the bullying policy. "I'd like to table this," said Schany. "Is there a difference between being accused of bullying and being founded? I'd like to know what the steps are." Christensen offered to provide the full bullying policy to the board.
Board member, Tammy Naig, also requested seeing the full misconduct policy as it relates to bullying. The policy changes were tabled until additional information can be reviewed.