More than 200 people came to a public forum Thursday night on Clarke County School District attendance and discipline policies—a high turnout that appeared to be dominated by professional educators and middle-class parents.
The crowd divided into small groups and reported back recommendations to the larger audience and school board members in attendance. In addition, about a dozen Cedar Shoals High School teachers distributed a document listing reforms they feel are needed.
Issues raised at the forum will be familiar to anyone who’s followed the aftermath of the alleged sexual assault at CSHS in January, which led numerous teachers and parents to raise concerns about discipline, transparency and accountability in the district.
While the groups made about three dozen comments—some more specific than others—the gist was that CCSD needs to set clear expectations for attendance and behavior with both rewards for students who follow the rules and plainly outlined punishments or interventions for those who don’t. Currently, the code of conduct states that students are required to be in class, and bullying and disruptive behavior is banned, but specific disciplinary actions are left up to individual schools, and there was a widely held concern that the rules are enforced differently across schools and among various groups. (For example, there’s no specific number of days a student is allowed to miss.)
In addition, detention and suspension are viewed as positives, not punishment, by some students, some attendees said.
Others raised concerns that the district isn’t doing enough to help students with problems at home or mental health issues, or to reach out to low-income families that may not be as engaged, and that administrators care more about statistical rankings than student achievement.
The Board of Education will sift through the comments and prepare a report, as well as outline the next steps to take in reforming district policies, within the next 30 days, school board member Sarah Ellis said.
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