You could see even stronger wording in Wake County's revised student code of conduct about discouraging the use of suspensions for what might be considered relatively minor offenses.
Members of the Wake County school board's economically disadvantaged student performance task force spent much of today's meeting reviewing the proposed revisions to the Code of Student Conduct.
The new code breaks offenses into five levels. Much of the discussion at various small groups was on making changes to the wording on Level I offenses.
Level I offenses include cheating, showing disrespect to school employees, repetitive tardies, using inappropriate language, wearing inappropriate dress. having a cell phone on during the instructional day, trespassing, using tobacco and gambling.
The proposed wording for Level I violations is that they "may warrant disciplinary consequences up to a short-term suspension." It also says "teachers and principals should consider in-school interventions in lieu of out-of-school suspensions."
Victoria Curtis, Wake's student due process officer, told task force members that training of principals would convey to them that Level I offenses should result in suspension only if the offenses are considered so egregious.
But after meeting in small groups, nearly all of them said they wanted wording spelling out that suspensions should be considered a last resort or not used at all for Level I.
Several groups reported out that the policy should explicitly say that principals have to spell out aggravating factors why they're issuing a short-term suspension for a Level I offense.
A couple of groups suggested going even further and saying that only alternatives to out-of-school suspensions should be used for Level I offenses.
A couple of groups had questions about the inclusion of misconduct on a school bus in Level II, which the new policy says that short-term suspension may be warranted. The policy also says that principals can cite mitigating factors for not issuing a short-term suspension or aggravating factor for making it a long-term suspension.
Examples of misconduct on a bus cited in the policy include delaying the bus schedule, getting off at an unauthorized stop, participating in disruptive behavior while the bus is in operation, failing to observe established safety rules and regulation and willfully trespassing upon a bus.
Ideas proposed included moving misconduct on a bus to Level I or splitting up certain bus offenses between Levels I and II.
Other ideas discussed today including setting up tiers of consequences based on grade level and length of the suspension. This could include saying some short-term offenses would last for less than 10 days or that some long-term offenses would be for up to a certain length.
The full board had been set to have an initial vote on the changes on Tuesday. But school board member John Tedesco, chairman of the ED task force, asked for it to be pulled so the group could review the changes.
Tedesco indicated today he'd be willing to look at stronger language about not using suspensions unless needed for Level I offenses and on setting up tiers based on grade level.
Staff wants a decision made soon on whether the policies will be changed so they can print up new student and parent handbooks.
The school board could vote on the discipline changes as early as Tuesday or May 17.