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School’s Handbook Policy Faces Scrutiny From Parent

School Board President Lamar Burgess (left) listened as Levert Hawkins questioned the District’s policy of automatically suspending a student one day for using profanity.

Board members listen as District Business Manager Randy Goodwin gives a financial report.

By Jack Gurner

WATER VALLEY – The School District’s policy of an automatic one-day suspension for students who use profanity was questioned by a parent at Monday night’s School Board meeting.

Levert Hawkins appeared before the Board to request that the school’s administrators be given some flexibility in their choice of punishment when a child uses a profane word or phrase.

Hawkins asked that his issue be discussed in the open rather than in executive session. Board President Lamar Burgess explained that no student or school personnel could be discussed in open session.

Hawkins indicated that he understood and agreed to limit his discussion to just the policy as it appears in the student handbook. “I’m here to express my concern about some of the disciplinary policies.”

“The automatic one-day suspension…that’s the policy that I feel is unfair to our students,” Hawkins said. “Understanding that many of our kids come from different backgrounds.”

“I’m not saying that when a kid has a slip of the tongue he shouldn’t be punished. What I am saying is that there should be some flexibility for the administration to make a decision, especially if you are talking about a kid who doesn’t have a history of disciplinary actions.”

Burgess agreed and said, “Maybe we do need parental and faculty and staff review of that policy because policies can always be updated, changed, modified when it is appropriate to do so.”

“The last place we want our young people is on the streets,” Hawkins said of the one-day suspension. “We need them in school.”

He added that if a student is belligerent in their use of profanity, especially to a teacher, then the suspension is warranted. “But, sometimes a kid is going to have a slip of the tongue. And, I don’t think the punishment fits the crime.”

Pierce Epes said, “There are some other places in the policy that have some rough spots that need polishing where you have a little more flexibility with what the administration can do.”

Taylor Trusty added that he had been hearing more and more questions about the handbook policies. “I think it is something that this board is going to have to visit and address.”

In other actions at the March 22 meeting, the School Board:

• Heard a financial report from District Business Manager Randy Goodwin who said that as of Feb. 28 the ending cash balance in the District maintenance fund was $676,899.04.

Goodwin said that barring any other cuts there would be $368,392.04 in the fund as of June 30. “That’s cash money in the bank after everything is paid.”

• Paid claims including a $14,143 gas bill, $9,655 for electricity, and $5,360 for diesel fuel.

• Accepted a bid of $11,099.99 from the Truck Center of Tupelo to rebuild a school bus motor.

• Disposed of a Dell computer.

• Scheduled the next School Board meeting for Tuesday, April 6, since Monday, April 5, is a holiday.

• Entered executive session after about 40 minutes in regular session to hear an update on the Superintendent’s search. The search follows an announcement last year that longtime superintendent Sammy Higdon would retire at the end of this school year.

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