By ASHLEY AMASON
The Walton County School Board held a workshop May 31 to discuss the 2011-12 code of conduct and student progression plan.
Notable changes to the student code of conduct include the addition of the positive behavior support model (PBS), defined as “a research based, highly effective approach to creating, teaching, and reinforcing students’ social, emotional, and academic learning skills that improves and sustains academic achievement and mental and emotional well-being.” PBS will be used district-wide.
A tiered disciplinary approach for dealing with possession of a pocket knife was added to the code of conduct. Although a common pocket knife is not included in the Florida Statutes as a “weapon,” the district considers it a “dangerous item” with no “pedagogical purpose” for students during school hours. Therefore students found in possession of a pocket knife during school hours will receive a verbal warning and be called for a parent conference on their first offense, serve three days of out-of-school-suspension for willful disobedience on the second offense, and be subject to expulsion on the third offense.
Coordinator of Special Programs Mark Ewing noted carrying a pocket knife was not a “zero tolerance issue” unless it was used with the “potential to do harm.”
As for wireless communication devices such as cell phones, schools have the right to seize electronic devices used in violation of school policy, which permits students to have cell phones on buses, but must keep them off and out of sight during school hours. Board member Dennis Wallace questioned the district’s obligation in reporting a student whose seized cell phone contains or implies illegal activity, such as sexting—a term popularized to describe the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photographs involving a minor under the age of 18 via cell phone, which could draw possession and dissemination of child pornography charges. District Attorney Ben Holley answered, “[We have] a legal obligation if we know anybody’s violating the law.”
For off-campus incidents in which a student is formally charged with a felony, the superintendent may, under the new code of conduct, “assign or reassign a student to any school or program in the district if in the judgment of the superintendent, such assignment is in the best interest of the student, another student, staff or the district in general.”
New to Florida Statues and the code of conduct is teen dating violence, which the district upholds will be prohibited on school property, at school-related or school sponsored events, and on school transportation.
The last notable change to the code of conduct was the simplification of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) Agreement, which a parent/guardian signs if he/she does not wish their child’s directory information or photos to appear in school district media such as yearbooks. The clear-cut form replaces one weighted in roundabout legal jargon and unnecessary paperwork.
Chairperson Sharon Roberts said, “This is the most magnificent change I’ve seen in a long while.”
Coordinator of School Improvement and Accountability Dr. David Jeselnik presented the student progression plan. Board discussion focused on the high absenteeism rate.
Recommended changes include granting a grade of no more than 60 percent for students who complete work missed while serving out-of-school suspension. Students who have attended class less than 67.5 hours during the semester will not receive credit in the course unless they demonstrate mastery of the performance standards by either completing after-school programs, individual assignments, or a comprehensive test approved by the principal. The superintendent may grant additional absences for students whose parent/guardian is on military leave or facing deployment.
Private school students will be allowed to participate in district sports if they meet certain requirements and live within the appropriate zoned area.
The code of conduct and student progression plan will be voted on at the June 21 WCSB meeting at 5 p.m. in the Tivoli Complex.