School policy recommendations raise enforcement question

A committee has drafted St. Landry Parish school policy recommendations in five key areas and principals have asked that they retain the authority to punish breaches as they see fit.

The School Board’s Executive Committee on Monday voted to forward the policy draft on field trips, activity fees, dress code components, cell phones/electronic devices and graduation to the full board for review.

The committee then endorsed the principals’ resolution.

The board last February asked that policies be reviewed with an eye toward consistency from school to school.

That lanquished for one reason or another until fast-tracked in August, when a group of boys, some sporting twists, others with different styles, were sent home to get hair cuts.

A special review overturned Principal Margaret Leger’s decision on the twists, saying there was nothing in the parish rules prohibiting that style.

Supt. Michael Nassif subsequently appointed a Discipline Policy Review Committee under provisions of a 1994 law that stipulates the membership and what it must do and when.

Its recommendations after being considered by the full board will be returned to the Executive Committee for further study.

That presumably will be where the enforcement issue is first more closely considered.

LA RS 416.8 stipulates that school system’s discipline policies shall contain specific consistent penalties which shall be imposed when pupils violate the policies or state laws on school discipline.

“Following a public hearing on the recommendations of the discipline policy review committee, each school board’s discipline policies shall delineate the specific consistent actions to be taken by teachers and other designated school employees to maintain order in the schools and on the school grounds,” the statute stipulates.

That is counter to what administrators feel is the best way to run the schools.

The Parish Administrators Association urges the board to reject the notion of universal discipline from school to school, allowing principals to retain discretion in how they handle each individual case.

Principals say they best know the schools and their students, and that a manual that provides universal punishment does not allow them to best manage the schools and students.

While the law specifies that there must be specific penalties for violations for policy, it also says a discipline policy must be in compliance with state law and school board policies.

School-to-school discretion, administrators may contend, is the long-established board policy and should not or cannot be changed by the policy adoption.

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