Students attending a college visit or taking part in a school-sponsored activity will be able to count their day as a day at school under a proposed change to the Cumberland County Schools attendance policy. 

The policy was approved on first reading during the Jan. 23 meeting of the Cumberland County Board of Education. 

The change recommended by the policy committee of the Cumberland County Board of Education follows a change to the model policy developed by the Tennessee School Boards Association, which maintains the school system’s policy manual. 

During the Jan. 9 policy committee meeting, Rebecca Wood, chief academic officer, read an email from the association which said, “Students who miss schools for these reasons may now be counted as present. 

“We actually put a present in there for them.”

Policy 6.2001, attendance during postsecondary visits, allows students to be counted as present for one day when visiting colleges as a freshman or sophomore and two days as a junior or senior. The student must provide a signed letter or form from a campus official verifying the visit occurred. 

The policy also cleans up language following recent changes to the policy regarding make-up work. 

While the board approved allowing elementary students to make up work missed regardless of the reason, and to allow high school students to make up work missed from their first three unexcused absences, the policy continued to state students would only be allowed to make up work from excused absences. 

“That did not convey what we had decided,” Wood told the committee.

The panel also agreed to remove a section related to end-of-course exams for high school students. These state-mandated exams must be taken in order for students to graduate. The state has also expanded the time allowed for testing to almost a month, making it easier for students who miss a day during scheduled testing to make up the test. 

TSBA also questioned the school system’s tobacco-free schools policy, policy 1.803, and recommended removing a section that said school principals may issue citations to students in possession of tobacco products at school.

The passage caused confusion on the purpose of the citation, Wood said, reading from an email from TSBA.

“If this is referring to principals issuing citations that would result in legal consequences for students, I recommend the board remove this language from board policy as this is not something currently provided for under state law,” she read.

“A law enforcement officer could still issue a citation, but that’s not something that’s required to be dealt with in policy.”

“At one time we were required to do that citation,” Graham said. “Now, I think the courts may be looking at that as not a high priority.”

She issued citations as an elementary principal if a school resource officer were not available. But there has been a change in circumstances, especially with school resource officers in every school, that could remove school personnel from writing court citations. 

She said the school system may need to work with the court system on procedures to ensure the method for handling discipline related to possession of tobacco at school. 

Scott Maddox, Career and Technical Education and secondary education supervisor, said the school resource officers had previously encouraged the school system not to write citations. 

Prior to the law change in January that raised the legal age to purchase tobacco to 21, schools struggled with citing students who were 17 while not citing students who could legally purchase tobacco. 

Brock said the policy needed to have a reference to citations or punishment. Otherwise the policy “has no teeth.”

The committee agreed to amend the policy to state students who possess tobacco products may be issued a citation by the school resource officer. The change was approved on first reading Jan. 23.

The panel also recommended changes to policy 6.319, alternative school programs, to reflect short-term placements in place of school suspension and outlining the process for assigning students to the alternative school following a zero tolerance offense. 

Parents or guardians must request an appeal of a long-term suspension to the disciplinary hearing authority. This board can consider an alternative placement for students.

In other action, the panel recommended adding kindergarten as one of the grades that will utilize alternative disciplinary practices outlined in policy 6.3, code of behavior and discipline.

Both policies were approved on first and second reading during the Jan. 23. meeting.

Other policies approved on second and final reading were:

•Student Wellness, policy 6.411, to change a citation from public act to Tennessee Code Annotated

•Student Records, policy 6.6, requiring the school system to provide copies of student records when a student transfers to another school within the school system or another school system

•Instructional Goals, policy 4.1, to incorporate the basic curriculum program policy within the instructional goals of the school system, with a nondiscrimination statement

•Class Size Ratios, policy 4.201, establishing pupil-teacher ratios will not exceed the averages outlined in state law

•Code of Conduct, policy 6.3, to reflect changes in state law requiring trauma-informed discipline practices and response to intervention behavioral plans among disciplinary options

•Alternative Credit Options, policy 4.209, to reflect changes in state law allowing students to enroll in statewide course access programs for up to two courses each year to be paid for by the local school system

•Student Assignments, policy 6.205, to reflect changes in state law regarding joint primary residential parents and school assignment, with parents able to designate the address to be used for student assignment at the start of each school year

•Duties of Board Members, policy 1.202, as recommended by the TSBA to provide an overview of board member duties

•Boardsmanship Code of Conduct, policy 1.2021, to state board members will refer complaints to the director of schools when appropriate, with other changes as recommended by the Tennessee School Boards Association related to the board member’s standards conduct and relations with the community, teachers and personnel, other board members, the director of schools and themselves

 

Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.

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