Handbook revisions await Blair Oaks students

Girls' shoulder blades must be covered

Revisions to the Blair Oaks schools’ handbooks could affect students when they return for classes in August.

As part of the changes, the school board on Tuesday approved two new categories of wrongful conduct at the elementary and middle school.

Under the new policies, elementary students may be cited for “horseplay” and “demeaning conduct.” Middle school students may be cited for “horseplay” as well.

Elementary Principal Kim Rodriquez said sometimes students’ behavior didn’t fall into any definable category.

“Are they fighting? No, not really. But they were pushing and shoving,” Rodriquez said.

Under the new rules, horseplay is considered: “Rough rowdy play or physical actions toward other students that may result in disruptions, embarrassment and physical discomfort.”

A first offense may result in parent contact, revoked privileges, after-school detention, in-school suspension or even out-of-school suspension.

Demeaning conduct is considered the use of words or actions — either verbal, written or symbolic — meant to harass or injure another person, such as threats of violence or defamation of a person’s race, religion, gender or ethnic origin.

The district’s handbooks already address problems with bullying. But bullying is “repeated behavior,” Rodriquez explained; demeaning conduct allows principals to address first-time situations.

Among other changes for secondary students is a reminder that girls’ shoulder blades must be covered. Halter tops that tie behind the neck and racerback garments are not to be worn at school.

“We wanted to better describe how we expect students to dress for a school setting,” High School Principal Gary Verslues said. “We just are trying to stay caught up with changes in fashion.”

Versleus said the dress code revision is in accordance with standards deemed acceptable by the community.

Another revision approved Tuesday will only affect students who are suspended from attending school.

Previously suspended pupils could only earn 50 percent on any assignments they turned in. Under the new rules, they will be able to earn up to 75 percent of the available credit. They also will be able to earn 100 percent of the credit available on end-of-semester exams, which can contribute significantly to a student’s grade.

“We wanted to keep it mostly on their shoulders, but we also wanted to give them a better chance to pass,” Verslues said. “We arrived at this decision with input from the faculty.”

Although the handbook was not changed, Verslues plans to continue to allow students to use their cellphones at the lunch hour on a trial basis. He said his staff permitted the use of the devices the last two weeks of the school year and it wasn’t disruptive. But he added he wasn’t ready to make the change a permanent one at the school.

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