U-CF School Board gets revised student discipline policy for review
By J. Chambless
By John Chambless
During a meeting at Unionville
Elementary School on Oct. 15, the members of the Unionville-Chadds
Ford School Board heard about good things happening at the school,
and then faced a challenge to reconstruct paper models on several
tables without touching them. The task stumped the many adults in the
room, but the students explained the secret at the end of five
minutes of intense discussion around the tables.
During public comment, former board student representative Gavin Brezski addressed the board as a college freshman who is following the progress of a revised Code of Student Conduct in the district. Policy 218, which has been the focus of months of debate, now contains a chance for students who commit some offenses to have the incidents rescinded from their transcripts when applying to colleges.
“This was something I was very passionate about last year,” Brezski said. “There was some discussion whether recision is seen by students as a 'freebie.' It's clear to me that the policy was put into place because the board believes it provides a second chance for students. But what about the perception?
“Some students aren't aware the policy exists. However, the ones who do have some mixed views. … Having the recision policy in place makes students feel more comfortable about committing wrongdoings. It enables a belief that they have a failsafe in their back pocket that guarantees them a second chance.
“Recision also unintentionaally creates a divide between parents, students and the high school administration,” Brezski said. “I believe that when the administration issues a suspension, and the students and the family then go to the superintendent and have a discussion about recision, if that's granted, I think that can cause a fracture, or a mistrust, between the family and the high school administration. There might be a belief that there was a misstep by the administration.
“We need to make sure that we are holding our students accountable, and they need to realize that actions have consequences,” he said. “Our actions in high school can affect our lives 20 or 30 or 40 years down the road, which is why I think that it's so important that, rather than find ways to give students a second chance, we should be finding ways to promote positive educational behavior.”
At the end of the meeting, board president Jeff Hellrung returned to the issue in his remarks. “For me, the high points of the recommended student discipline policy that we just had for first reading tonight was, first, the focus on safety and security in our schools. Second, the call for mututal respect between staff and students. Third, there is a rightful focus on student rights, but also responsibilities.
“There is opportunity for shorter and fewer suspensions, and in place of those suspensions – which often carry some significant consequences, specifically a lack of academic time -- we're going to give students educational opportunities,” Hellrung said. “We're going to go with recision, at least through year end, but we have strengthened the recision policy, and we have a commitment from the administration to assess the effect of this policy at the end of the year. The intention is to have it be a positive thing, to give students a second chance, and not to have any unintended negative consequences, such as communicating that students have one 'freebie.'
“The biggest change is that we're mandating some educational and counseling experiences for students who have committed alcohol and drug-related offenses,” Hellrung said. “So whereas our past practice had been an automatic 10-day, out-of-school suspension, our new practice will likely result in shorter suspensions and other consequences that will help the student learn. This counseling will be mandatory. To those who are opposed to that, and who think it should be a matter between parent and child, the minute that behavior takes place in school, or at a school event, it becomes our problem as well, and we're going to do the best we can to give appropriate consequences.”
During the meeting, the board approved several items, including the replacement of a chiller unit at Unionville High School that is part of the air conditioning system. The 100-ton compressor will be replaced at a cost of $36,055. The board also voted to transfer an operating surplus of $1.6 million to the capital reserve fund. The savings came about last year, chiefly due to savings on healthcare, special education and utilities.
Also approved was a Unionville High School Spanish trip to Costa Rica next year, a trip by the UHS Indoor Drumline to a competition in Ohio in April, and a new civics and government textbook for Patton Middle School at a cost of about $31,000.
Updated district information, and videos of all board meetings, can be found at www.ucfsd.org.
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email firstname.lastname@example.org.