School Board Votes to Strengthen Fight Policy for Middle School Students

Daniel Prince

District beginning to look at modified calendar

The Union County Board of School Trustees met last night for its November meeting. The first order of business was to elect board officers. Gene Lipsey was nominated to serve another year as board chair and Dr. Jane Wilkes as vice-chair. There were no other nominations, so both will serve in those roles for another year. Board member Mike Cohen shared with the board some highlights from the Beyond the Basics workshop that he participated in recently. He said the workshop emphasized moral civility and professionalism, particularly in getting along with others and doing the right thing.

Superintendent Joey Haney updated the board on the district’s November COVID numbers. In the first three weeks of the month, there have been 5 staff cases and 84 student cases. A total of 445 have been quarantined during that time. Student cases are up from 62 during the first three weeks of October, though staff cases and quarantine numbers were down from October.

Haney told the board that Devin Turner, a special education teacher at Buffalo Elementary School, had been honored as the October Golden Buzz Award winner. Haney also thanked the students and teachers who participated in recent community events, such as the Veterans Day ceremony and the Main Street Holiday Kickoff. Haney said there was great participation, and the performances were excellent.

Haney said the district is in the beginning stages of looking at a possible modified school calendar for the future. At the board’s September meeting, Haney had stated the idea of a year-round school calendar came up at a leadership team meeting involving district personnel and teacher representatives. Haney stated it would take at least two years, until the 2023-2024 school year, to work out the logistics of moving to a modified calendar. He said a survey has been circulated to teachers to get their feedback, both on the positive aspects of such a move and any concerns the teachers might have. Haney said the board will be updated on the results of the survey, and further feedback would be sought from parents and the community in the future.

Haney noted some changes to the student code of conduct, particularly affecting middle school students. He said some wording on consequences for certain offenses needed to be changed. The rule on tobacco products had to be changed to include wording dealing with vaping products. The biggest change deals with fighting. He said the policy at the high school for several years has been to suspend a student for 5 days and press charges. The new wording of the rule puts that into the policy. It also changes the middle school policy to be in line with that of the high school. He said that change was endorsed by the middle school principals, as they have seen a number of fights this year. A first offense would lead to 5 days of suspension and charges filed. A second fighting offense would lead to a 10-day suspension, charges, and a recommendation of expulsion. The changes to the administrative rule was for information only and did not need a motion, but the board unanimously voted to endorse the changes, anyway. Haney said students and parents would be informed of the changes.

Haney asked those attending to be in prayer for the families of those recently lost from the district, including Betsy Trakas and Linda Chastain. He then wished everyone a blessed time of thanksgiving with family and friends.

The board voted to adopt textbooks for career and technology classes, health, visual arts, and performing arts classes. Dr. Lacresha Byrd said the state has increased funding, so the list of new textbooks to be adopted has grown. She said some had not been updated in 10 years or more. She said a committee of district personnel and teachers had reviewed the textbooks. Parent representation on the committee had not been sought. The board unanimously voted to adopt the textbooks. Dr. Byrd stated that there will be another adoption cycle coming in the spring for social studies textbooks.

The board also approved the second and final reading on policies involving video monitoring of buildings and grounds and also on school buses. The SC School Board Association had recommended the policies for adoption. The district’s lawyers had vetted the policies and changed them slightly to fit with the district. The policies address signage and video retention, among other things. The board unanimously approved the policies.

We’ll have more from the school board meeting in later newscasts.

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