More than a year after it was scheduled to take effect, the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education’s updated Code of Conduct Policy is nearing completion after extensive revisions and input from the community.
Assistant Superintendent of Administration Gayle Carrick said at Monday’s regular BOE meeting that the updated policy had been reviewed by the administration, the school district’s attorney, many staff members and the South Orange Maplewood Education Association, followed by a top-to-bottom review over three full working days.
“It’s a wonderful piece of work,” Carrick said. “I do think it reflects the history and community in making sure that all of our students — all of our students — are treated fairly and all infractions are treated equally.”
The district is working to put the updated Code of Conduct Policy into effect by the start of the 2019-2020 school year, Carrick added.
The school district has grappled with disparities in discipline and suspension policies criticized as unfair to students of color and those with disabilities. Efforts to address those disparities resulted in policy revisions unveiled in April 2018 and the creation of a committee to review community feedback.
Missing its target for implementation in the fall of 2018, school district administrators went back to the drawing board, eliciting more feedback and criticism from the community at the Board of Education’s December 2018 meeting.
At Monday’s meeting, Board Member Johanna Wright remarked that the Code of Conduct Policy didn’t include guidelines for escalating issues to local police departments. “I didn’t see anything about what happens if police come into the school,” she said. “What rights do parents have? What’s the protocol that we should adhere to?”
Wright also said that other school districts have included such procedures in their policies.
Although Carrick said that the Code of Conduct Policy was aimed more at students, she agreed that such guidelines could find a place within the broader policy.
Board Member Elizabeth Baker agreed. “I do think it is prudent to have in the code of conduct [a way to address the] intersection between internal discipline and police being called.”
Carrick said the guidance would be taken into consideration and expressed confidence that the policy was close to completion.
“There’s a great deal of passion and compassion,” she said. “I think there is now commitment to this document. The key now is the implementation.”