BROOKVILLE — Policy regarding disciplinary measures came under fire Monday night during the Brookville Area School Board’s first meeting of the new year.
Two mothers addressed the board, asking the board not to revise board policy 218.3, which would give the superintendent the authority to make exceptions to the general policy not to suspend students from sports and other extracurricular activities as a disciplinary measure on a case by case basis.
Molly Zimmerman said, “I have great concerns about any policy that bans a student from extracurricular activities. The research is clear on the many benefits of extracurricular activities on a student’s health, school performance, sense of social belong and graduation rates.”
Saying that she believes the coaches and supervisors “are more than capable to make decisions regarding appropriate punishment, completely banning a student only removes access to valuable role models and positive peer influences,” Zimmerman said, “I feel this policy change could potentially have the biggest impact on our most at risk youth, kids with broken hearts and broken homes. As a parent, community member, approved foster parent, and educator, I can’t passively let you change policy that suggests you may give up on a child. I ask that you always consider that these are kids, and we can’t ever give up on them.”
Jennifer Keth encouraged the board to “consider each side of the issue before you vote,” because each decision made by the board “should be made without discrimination.” As a member of the Rotary Club in Clarion, she asked the board to consider the four rules of Rotary in discussing the policy: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build good will and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
Later in the meeting the board discussed Policy 218.3.
Superintendent Erich May told the board that “new information from the solicitor suggests that Policy 218.3 as it is written is in conflict with Policy 123. Policy 123, also revised in 2012, makes it clear that students could be removed from extracurriculars where it is believed their expression or conduct disrupts the operations of the school or the administration anticipates it is likely to interrupt the operations of the school.”
He said that as far as he has been able to determine, Policy 218.3 was written in 2012 by the local board “in consultation with the solicitor following a situation in which multiple students had engaged in the same behavior and multiple teams” were affected. “It is my understanding the board attempted to write a policy to provide consistency.” He said, “The advise from counsel now is to eliminate Policy 218.3 on the grounds it contradicts Policy 123” which is “the recommended policy that is rooted in 24 different pieces of legislation.”
May said he had asked the district’s solicitor to compare Policy 218.3 to the policies in neighboring school districts. “They found nothing like 218.3,” he said.
Following questions from board member Kerith Strand-Taylor, May clarified that there is not going to be a mass removal of students from teams and activities. “In some ways, Policy 123 runs parallel to the policy we have for disciplining students,” he said.
Board member Herb McConnell suggested the board also look at Policy 235, which lists rights and responsibilities of students “From my experience [as a former high school principal], no one ever wants to take their activities away from them, but sometimes behavior dictates that something needs to be done,” he said.