Fayette schools' updated student code of conduct prohibits disruptive behavior, twerking

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comJune 23, 2014 

Fayette County Public Schools central offices at 701 East Main Street, Lexington

HERALD-LEADER

An updated code of conduct approved Monday night by the Fayette County School Board gives, for the first time, detailed examples of what students may and may not do.

The revisions for 2014-15, the first major overhaul in at least nine years, classify violations from minor to severe and lay out possible responses from school officials.

The code reflects a commitment to limiting out-of-school suspensions and mirrors the district's philosophy of providing students with support and intervention, officials with Fayette County Public Schools said.

The code prohibits disruptive behavior, such as mimicking a teacher, and public displays of affection, including sitting on a boyfriend or girlfriend's lap. The code also says students may not grind or "twerk," a sexually provocative dance, at school functions. If a student ignores instructions to remain quiet on a school bus, that's considered insubordination.

Jessica Hiler, president of the Fayette County Education Association, a teachers group, said she was glad that the code had been overhauled.

"It was badly needed, and I think that staff will like the examples of behavior. It takes the guessing out of how to assign consequences," Hiler said.

A panel that included teachers, administrators and a student worked on the update for months. Additionally, district spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said, the district worked with UpSlope Solutions, a Colorado-based company that, according to its website, can help develop a single comprehensive "game plan" for preventing and managing student behavior problems. UpSlope was awarded a $15,343 contract by the district.

The code approved Monday included the first phase of revisions. More changes will be discussed in coming months, and more discussions are going to take place about responses to certain behaviors. There also will be more talk about possibly limiting the number of days a student could be suspended for a particular offense.

During the 2013-14 school year, the district had 3,357 suspensions, down from 4,188 in 2012-13, said Jan Hatfield, the district's Safe Schools Program specialist.

Also, the new code allows make-up work to be done for credit when a student has been suspended. With the approval of a principal, make-up work for credit might be allowed for other unexcused absences.

Currently, suspended students can make up major tests, projects or term papers, but not homework or other types of daily work.

District officials don't want students who have been suspended to lose ground academically, Hatfield said in an interview.

School board member Daryl Love said at a board meeting earlier this month that he liked that the code included lay terms. It discusses relevant issues, including cyberbullying through social media or text messages.

The code also indicates which violations could warrant intervention from law enforcement.

Hatfield said students would be taught about the expectations for their behavior.

Even though punishment might be appropriate in certain cases, she said, district officials want to focus on giving students support and intervention.

While looking out for the welfare and safety of students, school staffs are paying attention to how much classroom time is lost when children are suspended and are looking for alternatives, Hatfield said.

School officials will look for consequences for violations "without removing students from instruction," she said.

In other action, the board approved the purchase of additional land, about one acre, for a new high school on Winchester Road that is scheduled to open in 2017. In December, the board approved the purchase of 49 acres, and in March, it approved the purchase of 15 acres next to that site.

Since then, the boundaries of the proposed site have been refined, so total acreage for the site is closer to 65.

The district is paying $115,000 an acre.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter: @vhspears.

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