New state regulations will allow students to miss school for non-school sponsored extracurricular activities. The policy committee of the Cumberland County Board of Education recommended changes to the attendance policy to comply with the new state rules.

“This one concerns me,” Director of Schools Janet Graham told the committee. “If you’ve got 10 days out sick, 10 days extracurricular and 10 days with doctor’s notes, you can start racking up days. That become an excessive absentee issue.”

The policy allows principals to excuse students for up to 10 days each school year. Requests are to include the student’s name, grade, dates of absences and reason and the signature of the parent or guardian. Requests and documentation must be provided to the principal at least seven days before the absence. 

The state also added a provision for students to leave school for up to one class period each day for religious moral instruction. Students cannot be excused from classes that require tests for state or federal accountability.

The school system must develop secular criteria — such as attendance or turning in assignments — for awarding 1/2 elective credit for the course.

Bus Conduct

Parents can review video from bus surveillance cameras, but a proposed change in the policy outlines how long they have to make a request and how long the school system has to respond.

The process begins with a written request to Graham. From there, the school system has seven days to produce the video.

“We have to use our software to prepare the tape and basically blot out all the other kids faces,” explained Kim Bray, human resources supervisor. “They’re not going to be allowed to see any child but their own.”

Parents or guardians will view the tape with administrators at Central Services.

All school buses have video cameras, and the school system has the capacity to keep all footage up to 60 days. 

Graham said, “We didn’t think it was appropriate for people to go to the bus garage. They need to come here.”

Bray said the school system often pulls video footage following an incident, with or without a request from a parent, and keeps that footage. 

“Sometimes there’s an incident on a bus and you don’t get a call from a parent. But you’re still going to keep that video because there’s been a fight, a food fight. There’s been an incident of some kind,” Bray said.

Graham said footage may show a progression of behavior, as well.

However, the school system doesn’t guarantee footage will be kept longer than 60 days.

Graham said, “It should be fairly rapid. Generally, you get those responses really quickly.”

The committee also recommended the following policy changes:

•Graduation Requirements, policy 4.605, to require students pass a United States civics test 

•Testing Programs, policy 4.700, to include interest inventories and career assessments

•Minutes, policy 1.406, to remove requirements for minutes to include reports, documents and objects related to a formal motion, a record of all committees authorized, summery of committee reports, and official audio recordings

•Tobacco-Free Schools, policy 1.803, to extend the smoke-free area to a 100-foot radius of building entrances, as required by state law

•Alcohol and Drugs in the Workplace, policy 1.804, to add definitions for illegal drugs, unauthorized drugs and alcohol, and to add a section for an alcohol and drug-free workplace

•Surplus Property Sales, policy 2.403, to increase the minimum value of surplus material for disposal from $250 to $500

•Fundraising Activities, policy 2.601, to remove verbiage related to fundraising. A section related to non-educational fundraising activities was not included

•Charter School Applications, policy 1.901, with changes to dates for the application and review of charter school applications

•Charter School Oversight, policy 1.903, to change legal references and allow the board to make general recommendations on school performance

•Charter School Renewal, policy 1.905, to include changes to the timeline to renew a charter school

•Charter School Revocation, policy 1.906, to include a section to revoke a charter school due to priority status

•Separation Practices for Tenured Teachers, policy 5.200, adding drafting of a teacher into military service as an allowable reason for a teacher to break a contract with the board, changing teaching “certificate” to license and changing commissioner to State Board of Education

•Separation Practices for Non-Tenured Teachers, policy 5.201, adding drafting of a teacher into military service as an allowable reason for a teacher to break a contract with the board, changing teaching “certificate” to license and changing commissioner to State Board of Education

•Family and Medical Leave, policy 5.305, changing school system to school district and stating anyone with 1,250 hours of service during the prior 12 months is eligible for FMLA leave

•Emergency Preparedness Plan, policy 3.202, to include the principal must regularly check the number, location and condition of fire extinguishers and train all personnel on how to use them

•Students from Military Families, policy 6.506, stating students who lives outside the school district will be allowed to enroll if their parents are being relocated to Tennessee on military orders, with 30 days to provide documentation that they will be a resident of the school district

The panel took no action on a proposed policy for staff gifts and solicitations.

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.