School district ‘wordsmiths’ SRO, homebound student policies

 

Words matter, so the Lexington School District Three staff did some “wordsmithing” recently on two policies approved on first reading by the School Board of Trustees.

Ralph Schmidt, Assistant Superintendent of Personnel and Administration, presented minor revisions on polices that deal with School Resource Officers (SRO) and Homebound Instruction.  Mr. Schmidt said that school administration basically tweaked the policies to clarify and update them.

The South Carolina School Board Association’s (SCSBA) recommendation was to adopt a policy covering the requirements and duties of a SRO because some school districts did not have one in place. However, Lexington District Three already had such a policy prior to the SCSBA’s proposal.

The change for the district is not really a change, but is more wordsmithing, according to Mr. Schmidt. “The SCSBA was saying that we needed to adopt a policy, which we had already implemented,” he said. The change would clarify SRO training and the requirements under State law of how resource officers are utilized.

“We added in Level III violations for which law enforcement involvement is required,” Mr. Schmidt said.

The term “Level III” is part of the student conduct policy. He explained there were changes in student conduct Policy JICDA from months back, revised in June 2019, in which the administration changed the level of conduct based on what the State recommended.

“Level I is behavior misconduct. This deals with what students do to themselves such as cutting class or cheating,” Mr. Schmidt said. “Level II is disruptive conduct, meaning what students do to others. Some Level II (violations) may fall to when something criminal has been done such as bullying, etcetera. Level III is criminal conduct.”

The existing policy states that “a school resource officer is not a school disciplinarian and will not be requested or permitted to intervene in school discipline matters unless authorized by the district’s code of conduct.” That is, the SRO will not intervene except in Level III violations for which law enforcement involvement is required. Should there be a Level III infraction, the district will consult with their SROs.

The revised policy adds the word “any” to the policy.

“That is no real change; it just clarifies the policy,” Mr. Schmidt said. “The administrator or school official may refer any misconduct to the SRO or local law enforcement. When the conduct – under any level of behavior — arises to a level of criminality, criminal behavior or an immediate safety risk we will bring in the SRO.”

Mr. Schmidt said the policy the district already had in place was a good policy, but the changes in wording allows the administration more flexibility when dealing with any level of conduct. He pointed out that another change to the policy was to take out the words “visitor or employee” and replace them with “person who is not a student” and adds teeth by extending the reach of the SRO’s jurisdiction to deal with someone “who willfully interferes with” or “disturbs” the learning environment.

By changing the wordage, the School Resource Officer is granted statewide jurisdiction to arrest any violators.

Another policy approved by the School Board on first reading dealt with homebound instruction. The Medical Practice Act of 2018 has changed and now includes the addition of the words “physician’s assistant or properly authorized advanced practice registered nurse (APRN).”  That, along with the original wording of “a licensed physician” broadens who can sign recommendations for homebound instruction.

“Both policies are very good. They just needed a little change as recommended by the SCSBA,” Mr. Schmidt said. “The district is trying to continue and keep our policies in practice with all the regulatory laws and keep the school district informed of what our requirements are to help our students.”

Story by Anna Long / Posted September 26, 2019