By Jan Schultz
The Imperial Republican
Lengthy discussion on a current school policy and one being looked at comprised much of the July 8 CCS board of education meeting.
The current anti-bullying policy is one for which the board must hold a hearing annually, which is why it was on last week’s agenda.
Another topic on the table last week for discussion was a random drug testing policy for students. As the discussion continued, however, inclusion of all staff for random drug testing was suggested.
Other agenda items at last Tuesday’s meeting included purchase of a new van, formal hiring of a director of transportation and other annual school policy hearings.
Supt. Brad Schoeppey said the anti-bullying policy and its accompanying violence-free policy were before the board with no changes.
However, some asked if enforcement of the policy was getting lax.
Supt. Schoeppey estimated “true bullying” incidents probably occurred two to three times last year, but no suspensions resulted.
The policy states, “To help ensure a violence-free environment, the District has adopted a stringent stance concerning the following: fighting, hitting, kicking, biting and/or verbal abuse.”
It further states consequences are an out-of-school suspension for at least the remainder of the day the incident happened with a five-day suspension, expulsion and notification of police all possibilities.
Board member Gregg Smith said, “It seems we’ve gone a little bit lax on that,” referring to the policy’s statements on suspension.
He said, at one time, the school had a no-hit policy and now he hears of kids getting hit but the perpetrators are just being sent to the principal’s office.
Supt. Schoeppey said he is not in favor of suspensions.
“This is a philosophical discussion we may want to have,” Schoeppey said, especially at the elementary level. He said K-6 Principal Susie Stewart uses suspensions only as a last resort in most cases.
“I am not a fan of suspensions,” Schoeppey added. “I don’t feel it changes behavior.”
Time-out at school, away from the student’s friends is more effective in Schoeppey’s mind.
“This policy is not the stance we are taking at this time,” Smith said.
Smith added they should change the policy to match what’s being done now or back up what is there a little more.
Board member Sheila Stromberger suggested adding the words “may be given school suspension.” Board member Dan Reeves said the ability to suspend students needs to remain in the policy.
Supt. Schoeppey said the way it’s written now allows for no “gray area.”
“If we sent students home every time a kid is kicked or hit on the playground, there would be a lot of kids sent home,” he said.
Schoeppey will meet with the principals on possible changes or rewording.
“You’re right, if that’s what our policy says that’s what needs to be happening,” he said.
Stromberger added that all teachers, aides, secretaries and custodians need to be refreshed on how to handle these issues, as well.
Random drug testing
Supt. Schoeppey presented a proposed policy on random drug testing of students for board discussion.
No action was taken, but the board was interested in continued study of it and also extending it to include both staff and students. The policy reviewed by the board was sent by the school district’s attorney, Supt. Schoeppey said, and mirrors those in place in other Nebraska districts.
Currently, there is no CCS policy for random drug testing of students or staff. However, school bus drivers are tested.
While the proposal before the board addressed student testing only for those involved in competitive activities, board members discussed expanding it to staff, as well.
“We’re going to have a policy on students but not on staff?” asked board member Dirk Haarberg.
“I disagree. We do it on both or we don’t do it at all,” he said.
Including random drug testing of staff would have to be a negotiated item in their contracts, Supt. Schoeppey said.
Board member Willy O’Neil added, “We can ask the kids to submit to drug sampling for sports but we can’t ask the people who teach our kids to submit?”
Board President Jeff Olsen said if they make it a high priority for students then it should also be a priority in future negotiations with staff.
Schoeppey said any condition of employment is a negotiated item with the teachers. He believes newly-hired teachers can’t be asked to drug test, either.
Several mentioned many community businesses have random drug testing of their employees.
Board member Penny Strand asked if there was a need for this policy. She also had concerns that it did not include all students, just those in competitive activities.
“I hear of things, at least of some kids using marijuana and are involved in competitive activities,” Supt. Schoeppey said.
Policy wording says a “pool” of people would be randomly tested, and as written now, it would be those students involved in competitive activities. Parents must sign a form agreeing to the random testing for their children. If not signed, the student cannot compete in the activity, Schoeppey said.
The policy also spells out penalties if positive tests are found.
The board also had lengthy discussion as to what specific activities “competitive” included. In addition to sports, would music, FFA and others be included?
“This is good discussion now,” board member Stromberger said.
“It gives the public and coaches opportunity to know this is on the table. I hope we get some feedback,” she said.
The board indicated they will continue to discuss it in the coming months. Since handbooks are already printed for students it won’t be able to be included this year.
In other business, the board approved the low bid from Imperial Country Ford for a 2013 van with less than 20,000 miles for $21,700. That price included a $2,000 trade-in credit on the district’s 2006 van with 174,000 miles. Also bidding was Harchelroad Motors.
The board also discussed future purchase of a coach bus or mini bus for activities. They viewed online pictures and info on “turtle-top” units which can accommodate up to 43 passengers. The transportation committee will continue to discuss the item.
Meanwhile, Supt. Schoeppey noted the current activity bus was being repainted in Wauneta, and was expected to be back this week.
Other policies on parental involvement in schools and student fees also were adopted at the meeting after hearings. There were no changes to those policies.
The board formally hired Rex Felker as the school’s director of transportation at an annual salary of $48,000. He replaces Del Rehn.