Revisions to three Carroll County Public Schools policies concerning violent incidents and student health are on the agenda for the Board of Education’s monthly meeting Wednesday night. Each of the policies are set to be reviewed by school system staff and updated if needed every three years. All were last updated in 2020.
The board is set to vote on the proposed policy revisions Wednesday beginning at 5 p.m. The full meeting agenda can be viewed at https://share.carrollk12.org/sites/boarddocs/BoardMeetings/2023/07-12-2023/Agenda.pdf.
The three policies under consideration are the Comprehensive School Health Program and Wellness Policy, the Student Searches and Seizures Policy, and the Threats, Violent Acts, and Weapons Prohibited policy. Revisions to each were submitted by the school system’s Director of Student Services Karl Streaker. The Board of Education will vote on each policy update individually.
The school system’s policy on in-school threats and violence, firearms and weapons is based on Maryland’s Model Policy for Behavioral Threat Assessment, which was developed as a result of the Safe to Learn Act of 2018, according to the agenda item. Suggested updates would align the county’s policy with the Maryland Center for School Safety’s Behavioral Threat Assessment Implementation Guide, a supplement to the state threat assessment policy.
The policy was first implemented in December 1995 and has been updated multiple times, with the most recent revisions being approved Aug. 12, 2020.
The proposed policy revisions add definitions for terms such as “assault,” “look-alike firearm,” “targeted violence” and “leakage.” A “look-alike firearm/other gun” is defined in the policy revisions as, “any gun other than a firearm, loaded or unloaded, operable or inoperable … such as a BB gun, starter pistol, or pellet gun, which resembles a firearm.”
The proposed language defining look-alike firearms comes after the Manchester Police Department issued a statement in May warning of the dangers of a high school senior tradition game played outside of school using realistic water guns. The policy notes that with the written approval of a principal, look-alike weapons may be used in school-sponsored events such as drama productions or marching band performances and JROTC activities.
Also in the revisions “leakage” is defined as when “an individual intentionally or unintentionally reveals clues to feelings, thoughts, fantasies, attitudes, or intentions that may signal an impending violent act.” The policy now states that all members of the school community immediately should report any leakage or information related to leakage in order to avoid threats of violence to schools.
In the proposed revisions to this school system policy, last visited in March 2020, updates have been made to descriptions of counseling, psychological, and social services to include “program initiatives that support student learning in … self-regulation, relationship skills, conflict resolution, executive functioning skills, and problem-solving.”
While a school nurse was always responsible for contributing to classroom instruction in hand-washing and related topics, the proposed revisions would add CPR and overdose response training to the responsibilities of the position.
Other revisions to the policy include adding licensed mental health professionals to counsel students, provide professional development training for staff and “regularly intervene in crises and take preventive actions.” School psychologists would now work with post-secondary students and would now offer psychological assessment services.
In addition, staff has recommended that Health 2 would be changed from an optional to a required class. This change would reflect that students must now earn a full health credit to graduate under Maryland’s Comprehensive Health Education Framework. Health 1 and Health 2 are each worth a half-credit. Health 3 would remain an optional elective course.
In May last year, the school board approved an alternative opt-in high school health curriculum based on Maryland’s 51-page framework. The state health education framework includes curriculum guidelines for health education with instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity taught in an age-appropriate manner to children from preschool through 12th grade.
If parents of high school students choose to opt out of the state’s family life curriculum taught in high school health classes, they may choose the Carroll County version which expands upon state curriculum learning outcomes for stages of pregnancy, conception and avoiding sexual risks; adds lessons about the harmful nature of pornography and Maryland consent law; and deletes mention of sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity.
A health curriculum update approved by the school board in October will allow high schoolers to be certified to administer the overdose drug naloxone as a part of their health classes.
Additionally, the official health program scope would state that the Board of Education is committed to protecting employee health as well as student health.
“Tobacco use” would also be changed to “nicotine use,” and “drug and alcohol prevention” would be changed to “substance use prevention” in the policy revisions.
The school system’s current policy on student searches and seizure states that a drug investigation search would stop in the event that students are released from class into the halls. The updated policy would instead hold students in their classrooms until a search is completed.
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Suggested policy revisions also would expand the circumstances under which a student can be searched. While a student can currently be searched for suspected possession of unlawful items, the update would expand this rule to any item that violates a school policy.
A “student dignity” section would be added to the policy to clarify that searches should not humiliate students or disrupt instruction more than necessary. Whenever a student is searched, a third party is required to be present under the current policy. The third-party observer and student being searched must be of the same gender, and it is preferable for the searcher to be of the same gender as the student as well. The new policy endeavors to clarify this requirement by changing the rule’s wording.
Additionally, families still will be notified each year that drug detection dogs can be used on school grounds; they will be notified via student and parent handbooks and the annual informational calendar if the policy revision is ratified.
Earlier on Wednesday, the school board will hold a joint meeting with the Carroll County commissioners at 1 p.m., in the Reagan Room at the County Office Building. It will be streamed live on the Carroll County government website at https://bit.ly/3QtBsyt.
School board meetings are open to the public and livestreamed on the Carroll County Public Schools YouTube channel and viewable on the right side of the Board of Education’s website at carrollk12.org/board-of-education/meeting-information, under CETV Livestream. Meetings are also broadcast live throughout the month on Carroll Educational Television, Ch. 21.
Anyone who wishes to participate during the public participation portion of the meeting must fill out an online sign-up form at https://www.carrollk12.org/board-of-education/meeting-information or call the communications office at 410-751-3020 by 9 p.m., on the Tuesday before a meeting.