Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

February 28, 2014

No action on non-retaliation policy

By Heather Mullinix
Assistant editor

CROSSVILLE — Though the Cumberland County Board of Education policy committee had developed a policy to address retaliation against employees making a complaint of an ethics violation, the committee elected not to recommend the policy to the full board for consideration.

Richard Janeway, 2nd District representative, noted that the Tennessee School Boards Association had advised not adding the non-retaliation policy.

Loniel Green, director of policy services and staff attorney for TSBA, wrote, "My recommendation is that the board not adopt this policy as the intent of the proposed policy is already addressed in board policy 5.501, 5.500 and 5.5011. Both policy 5.501 and 5.5011 have provisions that restrict reprisal for employee-related complaints/grievances."

Susan Huneycutt, assistant director of human resources and administration, explained the policy had been developed from looking at similar policies of colleges and schools, and modifying it to fit the Cumberland County school system.

"We felt good about what it says," Huneycutt said.

Janeway noted federal and state law both prohibited retaliation.

"No matter what our policy says, federal law trumps it," he said. "If something is covered by federal law, should we include it in our policy?"

The committee decided to follow the advice of TSBA and not recommend the policy for inclusion in the policy manual.

The board did approve a change to the student discrimination/harassment and bullying/intimidation policy that specifically prohibits cyberbullying.

The board had previously elected not to change its policy, which stated harassment, bullying and intimidation would be a violation of policy, and that those acts may take place through electronic means. TSBA advised state law specifically referenced cyberbullying, and the board should specifically include that reference, as well.

Cyberbullying is defined as a form of bullying undertaken through the use of electronic devices. Electronic devises include, but are not limited to, telephones, cellular phones or other wireless telecommunication devices, text messaging, emails, social networking sites, instant messaging, videos, websites or fake profiles.

The committee also reviewed policies for sick leave and long-term leaves of absence.

Each year, the school system budgets for 10 additional teaching positions used to cover long-term leaves and sick leave of certified teachers.

"This year, we used 14 positions," explained Bob Scarbrough, chief financial officer of the school system. He added he believed there would be funds available in the budget to cover any shortfall, but that it sparked an interest in looking at the policies.

There is no way to restrict the amount of sick leave employees are able to accumulate, but Huneycutt noted many employees were not aware of how keeping their sick days could add to their retirement benefits when they decided to retire. Scarbrough explained each month of accumulated sick leave surrendered at retirement added from $6 to $10 per month in retirement benefits.

"It's a valuable thing to have sick leave available to our employees who need it," Huneycutt said. "But some I have talked to, I don't think they were aware sick days left over could help with retirement."

The policy committee also reviewed the fiscal management section of the policy manual. The central services staff was tasked with ensuring all booster organizations are in compliance with fiscal management policies and have approved bylaws in place.