When three fights escalated between groups of high school students during the school day last May, stopping the conflicts wasn’t the only obstacle the district faced in mitigating the situation.
The day the fights occurred, police dealt with multiple angry parents who showed up at the high school, yelling and threatening staff in addition to alleviating the student conflicts. Those conflicts resulted in 18 students being suspended and one staff member injured.
“That became quite problematic for us,” superintendent Dean Gorrell told the school board Monday night.
As a result, an amended set of visitor policies and rules for the district’s schools would limit who can and cannot access the school grounds and what restrictions might be placed on visitors during certain situations. It also would clarify rules for registered sex offenders who want to visit, including those who might be parents or students and set neutrality in family disputes.
These rule changes are part of a larger effort to increase security at the schools, with the district adding three new security roles and an anonymous tip line, creating a threat assessment process and policy changes regarding students returning to school after suspension and how the district communicates with families after different types of incidents at the schools.
The board members took no action on the policy Monday night but are scheduled to vote on it at its next board meeting Monday, Nov. 4.
Student conflict rule
The new set of rules would, during or immediately after a student conflict, limit visitors to adults who are parents of a student enrolled at the specific school site. Those parents would be subject to several conditions, including being limited to where they can go, what routes they can take on school grounds, what students they can talk to and how long they can be at the school. They also must, under some circumstances, be accompanied by a school employee.
Under this policy, any parent who does not comply with rules set by their respective schools, or anyone who is not a parent, will be escorted off the property and police can be called if necessary.
The board was receptive to the policy language changes, with board president Noah Roberts stating that the update is a great complement to other actions already taken by district administration after the May fights.
“I think it’s great that we’re taking a holistic approach to updating our policies and making sure students and staff are safe,” he said.
Gorrell said that during his 15 years with the district, there haven’t been many situations where administration has had to restrict parent access on school grounds, but there has been an increase in visitors coming to schools who are not directly related to students.
“We need to be protective of our students and our staff members, and parents who have a right to be there,” he said.
Sex offenders, family disputes
New language in the rules would clarify the district policy on sex offenders on school grounds and set neutrality in family legal disputes.
Anyone who is designated as a sex offender would not be allowed on any school premises without advance permission from each site’s administrator each time. This would not apply to students or parents who are registered sex offenders, but they must inform a school of their criminal status at the beginning of each year.
School premises is defined as any district-owned property, including building grounds, recreation areas or athletic fields.
The proposed policy also states the district will take neutrality in family legal disputes, especially between parents of students.
Unless a parent of a child has a court order restricting their access, the school district will not be a referee in designating who can and cannot visit their children during the school day, regardless of how another parent might feel. It’s up to individual families to inform the school district of court orders against parents, according to the policy.