Sex offenders were among the topics recently discussed by the Cumberland County Board of Education policy committee.

During its Nov. 10 meeting, the committee reviewed school board operation policies, which included those on registered sex offenders (1.808), the board's legal status and authority (1.100) and nepotism (1.108).

"We're taking the first two policies back to the board," said Director of Schools Aarona VanWinkle after the committee finalized its changes.

For policy 1.808, the committee made modifications based on recommendations submitted by the Tennessee School Board Association (TSBA) and current state law.

New wording in one part of the policy gives registered sex offenders access to schools depending on their area of employment. For example, any sex offender who is an employee of a third party can now "enter onto school grounds temporarily during school hours for the limited purpose of making mail, food or other deliveries."

"That's a part I don't like, but it's the law," said Pat Allen, principal of Pine View Elementary School.

However, registered sex offenders whose victims were minors are still prohibited from coming within 1,000 feet of a local school's property line. Plus, a new addition to the policy prevents them from loitering within 500 feet of school buildings or grounds.

The only exception to the rule is if a parent is a registered sex offender, noted VanWinkle.

Presently, the policy states that a principal has the option to "allow a parent who is a registered sex offender to drop off and pick up his/her child from school and to come onto campus for parent/teacher conferences."

Following the state law and TSBA's suggestions, the committee omitted portions of that sentence so principals no longer have a choice. They must allow those specific parents to come to the school, but for "the stated business only."

Changes were also made to policy 1.100 on the school board's legal status and authority.

The committee tweaked two lines that made the board's actions, decisions and policies "official only when approved by the majority or greater vote of those members present and voting at a legally constituted meeting of the board."

"We know that is not how the law reads," stated VanWinkle. "TCA (Tennessee Code Annotated) 49-2-202 says the majority of the members constituting the board, not merely a majority of the quorum, shall be required to transact all business coming before the board in regular or special meetings."

"In other words, it has to be the majority of nine," said Roger Hyder, 3rd District representative.

Hyder along with Brian Houston, 1st District representative and committee chair, agreed to rephrase the policy to make decisions official when approved by the "majority of the membership of the board." Mary Smith, 7th District representative, did not attend the meeting.

The only policy not modified by the committee was the one dealing with nepotism (1.108). It was up for consideration because Lane McAnally, supervisor of the transportation department, asked the committee to omit "brother-in-law" from the policy so he could hire a school bus driver.

According to the policy, relatives cannot be placed within the same line of employment if one of them "is responsible for supervising and evaluating job performance or work activities of another relative." This includes parents, children, spouses, brothers, sisters, in-laws and other family members who permanently reside in the same household.

"I think if we take out 'brother-in-law' and not a lot of the others it might start a avalanche," said VanWinkle. "Don't you think it might if we start taking things out?"

"I don't think we can change policy, but maybe we can waive it," Houston replied.

"If you waive it for one…(you) could be asking for trouble," said Allen. "I think we are better off to see if we can transfer him around."

With that said, the committee decided to leave the policy as is.

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