Polk strengthening athletes’ conduct policy

By LARRY C. BOWERS Staff Writer
Posted 8/15/17

The Polk County Board of Education is taking steps to strengthen its policy of conduct for student athletes to protect the health and well-being of all Polk County students.

Board members …

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Polk strengthening athletes’ conduct policy

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The Polk County Board of Education is taking steps to strengthen its policy of conduct for student athletes to protect the health and well-being of all Polk County students.

Board members approved the new policy on first reading Monday evening at Chilhowee Middle School, and are expected to approve it at September’s meeting. Approval was unanimous, though Vice Chairman James Davis was absent.

The stricter policy was determined as a priority for the Polk County Schools system following attacks on old policy after some tragic incidents in recent years.

“We have [previously] had a very flimsy hazing/bullying policy,” admitted Director of Schools Dr. James Jones.

He went on to say school system attorney Scott Bennett drafted the new policy from examples of exemplary polices at other school systems.

“It involves proper reporting of incidents, and a list of prohibitions,” said Jones.

The policy says that in recognizing that participation in athletics is a privilege with certain responsibilities of leadership and good moral character, the proposed policy emphasizes the board is attempting to establish a code of conduct to govern all student athletes. Principals at each of Polk County’s five schools will be authorized and directed to include provisions in student handbooks, in keeping with the terms of this new policy.

Each school will establish rules and regulations governing conduct, and establishing prohibitions. They are:

• Hazing or initiation activities in any form;

• Bullying or harassments;

• Conduct that is taunting or demeaning of other individuals;

• Conduct that disparages any racial, religious, ethnic, or other demographic group;

• Any violent, unruly or disruptive behavior;

• The consumption of any alcoholic beverage;

• The use of any illegal or illicit drug or controlled substance; and

• Any involvement in any criminal activity.

The policy also points out it is immaterial whether the student’s misconduct occurs off campus, after school hours, or outside the regular season of athletic competition.

School administrators will have broad discretion in determining guilt and appropriate discipline. Principals are authorized to suspend or terminate students guilty of misconduct.

The student may appeal the decision to the school system superintendent, who will have the final decision.

The school board also approved on first reading a new school system policy on reporting suspected child abuse to appropriate authorities.

This policy was established to give school system employees guidance to ensure that suspected abuse is promptly investigated, and that the children are adequately protected.

The new policy emphasizes “The Duty to Report” and “How to Report.”

Officials hope the training of school system officials, administrators, teachers, and others will protect all students in all Polk County schools.

In other school board business:

• The board approved the election of Mark Williams as the new vice chairman for the coming year. He received seven votes, passing on his own.

Davis is the current vice chairman, but will step up to the chairmanship in October, replacing Stan Howard. Another vice chairman will be elected a year from now, when Williams takes over as chairman.

• The board approved a motion for Polk High’s FFA participants to travel to Lebanon for a dairy judging contest.

• Board members also approved the 2017-18 Apple lease.

• Chilhowee Middle Principal Connie Dunn said teachers and students are busy at her school. The students are eagerly awaiting the arrival of new iPads being provided by a $1.25 million Verizon grant. She said several facility improvements were accomplished over the summer.

• Copper Basin Elementary School is receiving new basketball goals.

Principal Jill Franklin also received approval to begin a fundraising campaign to send students in grades five and six to Washington, D.C., this year. Students travel to either Savannah, Ga., or Washington each year.

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