When students return to Effingham County schools in less than a month, they will have a set of new rules by which to comply.
Effingham County school board members adopted changes to the student dress code, attendance, conduct and bullying policies.
The most noticeable change to the dress code involves logos on shirts. Board members approved allowing just one logo on a shirt and the logo must be in the chest pocket area.
Superintendent Randy Shearouse pointed out that many shirts now have logos on other areas, including the sleeve and on the backs of collars.
“Some of the dress styles have changed,” he said.
Board member Vickie Decker said she didn’t think any kind of specification in regard to placement was made the board adopted credit card-sized logos on shirts. Human resources director Becky Long called a couple of principals to determine what the policy had been in regard to where logos were permitted, but they couldn’t recall if any requirement had been made.
“Coming from an enforcement point of view, I’d like to see the chest pocket incorporated into this,” said board member Beth Helmly. “I still think it needs to be one place, because we’re getting more and more away from the uniform.”
BoE Chairman Lamar Allen acknowledged adopting the new dress code policy needed to be done quickly.
“This needs to get done so we can get it into the handbook,” he said.
The school board adopted a definition of cyberbullying in its anti-bullying guidelines. According to the adopted changes, the term bullying applies to cyberbullying, with electronic communication, whether or not the electronic act originated on school property or with school equipment, if the electronic communication is directed specifically at students or school personnel and is maliciously intended for the purpose of threatening the safety of others or creates a reasonable fear of harm.
Shearouse said the new cyberbullying standards are a part of state law, and much of cyberbullying incidents carry over to school.
“It gives us another chance to deal with it,” Allen said.
Helmly worried that monitoring for cyberbullying may be too much to ask out of school officials.
“Kids constantly put things out there,” she said. “Monitoring that can be overwhelming.”
Acts of bullying are punishable by a range of consequences through the school system’s progressive discipline process, which are outlined in the code of conduct. If a student in grades 6-12 is guilty of bullying for a third time in the school year, they will be sent to the alternative school.
Changes to the weapons policy were enacted that do away with the zero tolerance standard. Shearouse noted that a student might go hunting in the morning before school and forget to take his firearm out of his vehicle before driving to school.
“It still provides for suspensions,” Shearouse said.
Under school system guidelines, the superintendent can reduce the one-year expulsion if he deems it to be excessive. The school system tribunal also modify expulsions on a case-by-case basis
Helmly wanted to make sure the system had punishment in place for students who knowingly and willingly bring a weapon to school.
“I’m not saying I don’t want to throw that kid out of school,” she said, “but I’m saying you should leave something in here that says you’re going to get suspended five days and depending on the investigation, you could get more days or you could be referred for expulsion.”
“That’s why legislators passed that,” Allen said. “Before, it was no matter what, you’re gone.”
Under the school system’s weapons policy, any student with a weapon is automatically suspended for five days. An investigation will be conducted during the suspension and if it is no determined no threat nor intent was involved, the student’s parents must have a conference with the superintendent to determine if the student can return to school after the suspension.
Students who bring weapons that are not firearms or explosives — such as a knife, blackjack or razor blade — to school can be suspended for five days and could face additional progressive discipline.
Under state law, a student who brings a firearm to school is subject to be expelled for at least one year.
In adopting new student attendance policies, the board mandated that students absent from school must bring a written note from a parent or guardian on their first day back in class explaining why they were absent.