Whistle blowers slow to act face consequences in policy | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Whistle blowers slow to act face consequences in policy

by Regina Purcell, Tribune News Service

Knowing of a suspected crime and failing to immediately report it to school officials can result in possible suspension or expulsion for Douglas County students.

The new suspension and expulsion policy, approved on first reading Tuesday by the Douglas County School District Board of Trustees, adds a new offense: “Failure to immediately report a situation or incident that could result in impairing or threatening the health, safety, welfare of teachers, students, or other persons.”

It was prompted by an incident last year when a student failed to report information about another student starting a fire. When district officials tried to punish the student for failing to report the incident, it was determined the former policy did not specify the student’s behavior warranted punishment, according to his parents, district officials said.

The new policy will have a second reading at the Aug. 10 board meeting and will be open for public comment and voted on for approval.

The policy, according to Roy Casey, assistant superintendent for education services, also gives individual schools discretion to suspend a violator for up to 10 days with teachers’ input.

However, if a recommendation for suspension or expulsion exceeds that, it will be up to the board to decide the student’s fate.

The new policy also covers offenses such as possession of tobacco, alcohol or controlled substances, verbal or physical abuse, gang activity, malicious damage to school property, truancy, disobedience, hazing or use of vulgar language, among other offenses.

It has a subsection that determines weapons, fighting and intimidation guidelines.

All offenses are punishable if they occur on school grounds, during lunch and break periods, at any school-sponsored activity, on a school bus, at a bus stop or on the way to or from school.

In other business, the board examined the district’s goals for the 2002-03 school year.

In areas of competency and graduation strategies, Superintendent John Soderman said the class of 2002, which just graduated and was the first class involved in higher standards, is seen as a success.

While there is still some review needed, Soderman said out of 400 students, 350 graduated with only a few opting for early adult diplomas.

“We should take great pride,” he told trustees. “It took a lot of hard work.”

Trustees also looked at communication, career strategy and hiring practices, and will discuss improvements and guidelines to fulfill goals during the August meeting.

Soderman told the board he wants the district’s Web site expanded to include all district business, including minutes from committee meetings and listing district statistics and competency-based information.

He also said trustees need to get out in the community and meet with service organizations and business groups.

“We need to make a better presence, meaning the board of trustees, to find out the pulse of the community,” he said.

Board President Dave Brady said he hopes listing consolidated information about district-related meetings on the Internet will bring in more public participation.

The next board of trustees meeting is slated Aug. 13 at 3:30 p.m. at Douglas High School.

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