Administrators and board members of the Cherokee School District hammered out details of academic and good conduct policies during a meeting on Tuesday evening.
The finished document will presented at a public hearing on Aug. 7 at 7 p.m. Input will be obtained from the public on rules governing eligibility for participation in high school extracurricular activities and representation of the high school for activities such as being homecoming royalty and being members of the student council.
Following the public hearing, the school board will hold a special session to approve the new policies which will be put into operation at the start of the school year.
Separate policies govern eligibility for 7th and 8th grades. The policies to be approved after a public hearing on Aug. 7 will deal with high school only but changes will subsequently be made in middle school policies to align them with the high school.
Both the academic eligibility policy and the good conduct policy provide disciplinary measures to be used on students who participate in one or more extra-curricular activity. There is no way to apply them to students who do not participate in extracurricular activities. For students who participate in more than one kind of activity, such as speech as well as a sport, there is more of a penalty than for those who participate in only one activity, since ineligibility applies to the various activities.
The need for a change in academic eligibility is mandated by changes in state requirements. This includes elimination of eligibility for a period of time for anyone who fails any class in the previous semester, the "no pass, no play rule."
The good conduct rules are being changed to improve clarity and objectivity, eliminating loopholes that have appeared since the last major revisions a couple of years back.
"Working out the academic eligibility is a bit messy," said John Chalstrom, superintendent.
He explained that to arrive at an academic eligibility policy, the state requirements have to be cut and pasted onto the local requirements. The state has requirements only regarding semester grades, while the school district also deals with failing or low grades at the quarter and mid quarter levels.
Therefore, the semester language is determined by the state and the quarter and mid-quarter language is determined by the district.
It was the feeling of local board members and administrators that it did not serve students well to deny eligibility to participate in extracurricular activities for a period of four weeks while not having consequences for their performance at other evaluation times during the semester.
"The purpose of the policy is to improve the student's performance. If it is simply punitive, it makes no sense," Chalstrom said.
The discussion of the good conduct policy was more involved and complicated than the academic policy but Chalstrom believes that the proposed changes make the policy more objective and clearer than past policy.
As far as the penalties, a noticeable change will be the substitution of 25 percent of the sports season for the present language of two events for a first offense.
It was noted that there is no progression from first to second offense for eligibility to participate in drama and in speech. It was explained that the first offense penalty is already quite severe for these two areas. Removal from the next competition, as required for speech students, means the student will not be able to advance to the next level, effectively eliminating the student for the speech season.
For drama participants, removal from the cast of the current play or next scheduled play effectively eliminates the student from half the year's performances.
It was explained that most music performances are exempt from the effects of the good conduct policy since they are part of what students are graded on. Therefore they are not extra-curricular activities.
There was extensive discussion on possible disciplinary scenarios involving the conduct policy. Chalstrom said no policy is perfect.
Tentative decisions made include: retaining the "mere presence" rule that prohibits participants in extra-curricular activities from being at a place where minors are consuming alcohol or illegal drugs, retaining the ineligibility of students who appeal an unfavorable decision, continuing to include participation in the homecoming royalty and student council as activities that are governed under good conduct policy but continuing to exempt participation in the prom and in graduation exercises from being under the good conduct policy, and having a 15-day reporting deadline for people (staff or citizen) who witness a violation and are willing to make the signed written complaint as required.
Chalstrom warned the school board members that they are likely to hear from parents or students who complain about unfairness in policies.
Chalstrom said that in the past, there have been complaints about some students not getting disciplined for the same thing that other students have been disciplined for. In that case Chalstrom tells the person that if the person signs a written statement as required, the report will be processed.
He said some people will make the written statement and some won't. There is a 15-day time limit for reporting the incident. This is to avoid vindictive actions using long past infractions.