The School Board of Alachua County (SBAC) approved on first reading changes to the codes of conduct for elementary and secondary schools, which add sections on weapons, fighting and vaping, and specific consequences for bus rule violations.
The school district’s discipline committee – which includes school and system administrators, teachers, para professionals and transportation employees -- proposed the changes to the codes.
The SBAC approved the changes at its meeting Tuesday, but asked the discipline committee to address some concerns before the new policies come back before the board for a final vote.
Under the proposed changes, the system would add a section on fighting that specifies that students “are expected to avoid a fight by walking away from the threatened conflict and reporting the threat to school personnel.”
The proposed policy also spells out that students who film a fight, refuse to leave the area around a fight and who move toward, rather than away, from fight also would face discipline.
Board Member Sarah Rockwell said she was concerned about the portion of the policy that says students who move toward a fight will be disciplined.
Alachua County students who take anti-bullying training are instructed to intervene if someone is being bullied, Rockwell said.
Students who move toward a fight to try and deescalate a situation are different from students who are taking photos or videos for social media or students who are joining or “egging on” violence, she said.
“I feel like we’re sending mixed messages to our students when we’re telling them to say something and step in when they see bullying, but then they could get a [disciplinary] referral for doing so,” Rockwell said.
Added changes to the bus rules specify the consequences of each of the first five bus infractions, including parental conferences, in-school detention, and suspension of bus riding privileges for a set number of days. A sixth discipline referral would result in suspension for the remainder of the year, according to the proposed policy.
The code changes also include a similar spelling out of consequences for possessing, distributing and selling of vaping devices on school property.
Board members said they would like to see these sorts of specific consequences spelled out in other sections as well.
“The clearer we can be with actions and consequences in here, and the easier [the code] is to understand, the better it will be for parents,” said Board Member Kay Abbitt.
A new portion of the weapons section specifies that items such as BB guns, slingshots, fireworks, tasers and pepper spray also are considered weapons and that look-a-like weapons are also prohibited.
Board Member Diyonne McGraw said she would like to see combs with metal picks added to the list of things that would be considered weapons.
The revisions to the codes of conduct will be discussed at a future public hearing. With the changes, the elementary school code of conduct would span 37 pages while the secondary school code would clock in at 39 pages.
Once approved, the revised codes will be distributed to parents of students in the district, who will have to sign a form acknowledging they have received a copy of the school system rules.
Asking an attacked student to walk away often does not take into account the culture of a student nor the response a school will give to help, In my world , not standing up to a bully only led to more, even worse, bullying. The one who is attacked should be given a modicum of respect in how administration deals with them. Remember, one has a right to reasonably defend themself! Backing off from a bully can have dire consequences - especially when there is no guarantee of administrative support.