Monday, December 05, 2022

BCSD policy rewrite

Hagadone News Network | December 30, 2021 1:00 AM

BONNERS FERRY — The Boundary County School Board is rewriting policy to align with all state laws, for clarity and to better reflect the values of the district.

BCSD, in partnership with the Idaho School Board Association, is given quarterly updates on policy that align with all state laws. BCSD has been going through a policy rewrite since April 2020.

Superintendent Jan Bayer told the Bonners Ferry Herald that last year’s lengthy legislative session meant the district did not receive updates until school was already in session and plans were in place.

When updates are not made before the school year, Bayer said what happens is eventually policies start to conflict with each other.

“And so we have some policies that are conflicting. And they always say a school district lives or dies by their policies,” said the superintendent.

Bayer said that before she was superintendent, policies were changed that didn’t necessarily align with code. While not intentional, it just happens sometimes, she said.

The board is starting from the beginning of the policy and working its way through each section. BCSD has not had a full policy rewrite since the early 2000s, Bayer said.

“It's a good thing for any school district to do, say every 10 to 15 years, to realign all your policies,” she added. “We're just going through to make sure all of the policies align with current state and federal laws, and that when our policies cross reference they align, too.”

The board is looking to bring the athletic code and the extracurricular policies into one location instead of being spread around the document. As it is now when reviewing the student handbook, Bayer said individuals may have to look in three to five locations on different policy.

“Right now in one part of the student section it might say you're considered an athlete year-round. Another policy might say you're an athlete just for that season,” she said.

The district is in the process of realigning all policies to make sure they’re consistent, Bayer said.

Tightening up the policy is important not just for BCSD to be in line with state law, but it allows them to be fair and consistent with disciplinary action as well, Bayer said. She added that student athletes who violate the drug, tobacco or alcohol policy would find ways around the enforcement of policy since there were inconsistencies.

Since the code is unclear on whether students are athletes year-round or just during the sport season they participate in, students would get around the policy for signing up for a sport they did not intend to participate in to get them back on track for the next sports season, Bayer said.

“Students could say, ‘you know what, I normally wouldn't do a fall sport, but I got in trouble. So now I'm going to take a fall sport so I can check it off and then go into my regular sport,’” Bayer said.

“The policy should be consistent,” Bayer said. “It shouldn't matter who you are, it's consistent. And we're going to consistently apply our policies to every single individual.”

Bayer said that she wants to support students, staff and the community by providing consistent policy that acts as a backbone for the board and their decisions.

“It also takes the emotion out of it,” she said. “And the other thing is, we have to always remember that they’re kids, too. And so kids can make really dumb decisions. And so we have to use it as a learning tool to prevent them from re-offending or doing things again.”

The superintendent and the board are going to proactively support students going through disciplinary action, Bayer said. When discipline is so punishing, and kids don't see any hope they never come back, the superintendent said they could continue to go down the wrong path.

“So we really want it to be preventative. We want it to be there to support kids, if they are dealing with an issue. But we also know that people that participate in extra and co-curricular activities represent Boundary County, they represent Bonners Ferry High School and so they are held to a higher standard,” Bayer said.

“We've always followed the policy, even with recent events. It just needs to be communicated better, and how they connect, and where you find them all need to be in one location instead of all the policy.

Bayer said the district just started the process to update the document, which is expected to take three months.

Each series has to go through three readings, which takes three months, Bayer said. BCSD has organized policies by topic and places them in series, by numbers. The series go from 1000 series to 9000, which can include anything from one to 1,000 different policies. It will be another year before all policies are rewritten.

At the Jan. 17 board meeting, half of the 2000 series will be brought before the board for the first reading, Bayer said. The second half of the 2000 series will be brought for its first reading at the February meeting. It takes a first, second and third reading for each series. So that is a three-month process to pass just one series of policies.

BCSD board meetings are the third Tuesday of every month at 6 p.m. at the district office at 7188 Oak St., Bonners Ferry.

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