Bullying and discipline policies in Palo Alto schools will top the agenda Tuesday, May 13, when the two members of the school board's Policy Review Committee try to hammer out recommendations to the full board.
The latest proposed bullying policy for students in "non-protected" classes (meaning students who are not members of minority groups or students with disabilities), is at least the fourth such policy proposed to the review committee by Superintendent Kevin Skelly since December 2013.
In the latest version, non-protected complaints would still be handled at the school level -- as opposed to the district level for "protected" classes of students -- but the principal would have a 15-day deadline to resolve the problem, and families would be able to appeal the principal's decision to the district-level student service coordinator.
Some parents have argued for a uniform, district-level complaint procedure for all students, as recommended by the California School Boards Association. But Skelly said that idea met with resistance from principals, and board member Camille Townsend has argued that it could have the unintended effect of unduly elevating and creating formal records on minor playground scuffles.
Also under the new proposed bullying policy for non-protected students, a "notice of decision" from the principal would have to be given to the parties, but it is not clear whether that has to be written or not or how detailed it must be.
Off-campus incidents, and how they will be handled, is covered more extensively in this new version. It states "the superintendent or designee shall investigate" all reports of off-campus bullying and shall "document the activity and identify specific facts or circumstances that explain the impact or potential impact on school activity, school attendance or the target student's educational performance."
The proposed new policy imposes a 15-day deadline for completion of the investigation, even if the bullying occurred off campus.
The new proposal also adds language calling for "interim" measures pending resolution of bullying complaints, when appropriate, including placing students in separate classes.
It gives staff members one day to report to the principal bullying behavior they have witnessed or that is reported to them. It also requires principals to keep documentation of all bullying complaints, written or oral.
In February, the board did adopt a district-level bullying complaint procedure for "protected" classes of students to meet the terms of a December 2012 "resolution agreement" with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. In that agreement, the district admitted no violation but federal investigators found that the district had violated the civil rights of a disabled student in its mishandling of ongoing bullying complaints.
Also on Tuesday's committee agenda is a proposed conduct policy covering cell-phone use during class and a discipline policy prohibiting teachers from restricting a student's recess time "unless the safety and health of the student or other students are at risk."
The proposed cell-phone policy requires them to be turned off during class, except when being used for a valid instructional or other school-related purpose as determined by the teacher.
Tuesday's committee meeting will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. in Conference Room A of school district headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave.
View a table comparing three bullying policies proposed since December 2013