The Oconee County Board of Education on July 18 approved for discussion three policies mandated by legislation approved by the General Assembly this year.
The policies specify Unstructured Break Time, a Divisive Concepts Complaint Resolution Process, and a Material Harmful to Minors Complaint Resolution Process.
The Board action, taken without any discussion, puts the three policies “on the table” for public review and comment until the next Board of Education meeting on Monday.
The Board also voted to rescind its current policy on Health and Physical Education and to follow instead an updated State Board of Education Policy, also consistent with legislation passed by the General Assembly this year.
Susan Stancil, Chief Academics Officer for Oconee County Schools, told the Board that Oconee County Schools had created a new Parents’ Bill Of Rights to reflect the requirements of another piece of legislation passed by the General Assembly.
Stancil said the legislation “codified into law several practices that we are already doing.”
The Board did not take any vote on that document.
Following State Directives
The Board of Education was responding to legislation that was very controversial in the General Assembly session this year.
|Stancil With Board Member Michael Ransom 7/18/2022|
House Bill 1084, called the “Protect Students First Act,” states that “any curriculum, classroom instruction, or mandatory training program, whether delivered or facilitated by school personnel or a third party engaged by a school or local school system, shall not advocate for divisive concepts.”
Senate Bill 226 requires each Board of Education “to adopt a policy providing for a complaint resolution process to be used by its local school system to address complaints submitted by parents or permanent guardians alleging that material that is harmful to minors has been provided or is currently available to a student.”
House Bill 1283 requires that “each elementary school shall schedule recess for all students in kindergarten and grades one through five every school day” and that “local board of education shall establish written policies allowing or prohibiting unstructured break time for students in kindergarten and grades one through eight.”
House Bill 1178, named the Parent’s Bill of Rights, gives parents, among other things, the right to review “all instructional materials intended for use in the classroom of his or her minor child...during the first two weeks of each nine-week grading period of the school year.”
Discussion of the response of Oconee County Schools to these legislative mandates generated no controversy or even discussion at the Board of Education meeting on July 18.
Review Of Policy
Chief Academic Officer Stancil told the Board that “Board Regulation JRB-R(1) Parents Bill of Rights has been created to reflect the requirements within House Bill 1178.”
That bill, she said, “codified into law several practices that we are already doing, including allowing parents to access their student’s records, giving parents the right to review instructional materials, providing them with the ability to opt their child out of photographs and videos, and allowing them to opt their child out of programs such as sex education.”
Stancil told the Board that a policy document on health and physical education had been placed on the table for public review and comment following the June 6, 2022, Board meeting.”
Stancil said that she had not received any comment or the policy, but the recommendation was to rescind that policy and adopt a new policy reflecting House Bill 287, another piece of legislation that requires including “vaping and human trafficking instruction in grades 6 through 12” in the policy statement.
Stancil said that the policy document on “unstructured break time has been revised to reflect the requirements within House Bill 1283.”
“This new law shifts from allowing to requiring,” she said. “This now requires recess in grades K-5, which is already a practice in Oconee County, and allows for an unstructured break in grades 6 through 8 at the discretion of the principal.
“Our middle school principals have scheduled a 10-minute break following lunch,” Stancil said.
Stancil said a “Divisive concepts complaint resolution process has been created to reflect the requirements within House Bill 1084. This policy outlines the definition of what would be considered a divisive concept and then the process for resolving an issue if one comes up regarding these topics.”
Stancil said the document setting up a policy for a “material harmful to minors complaint resolution process has been created to reflect the requirements within Senate Bill 226.”
Stancil said that bill “required the creation of a policy to address complaints about books containing explicit material as a whole.”
The Unstructured Break Time Policy is a single page document that strikes out the old school policy and substitutes in the new language required by state law.
The Divisive Concepts Complaint Resolution Process is a new four-page policy document that incorporates language from House Bill 1084.
Divisive Concepts are defined as in the law itself, and the Board of Education puts forward a complaint resolution policy as specified in the law.
The policy states, for example, that “The complaint shall first be submitted in writing to the principal of the school where the alleged violation occurred,” and “The complaint shall provide a reasonably detailed description of the alleged violation.”
The Material Harmful to Minors Complaint Resolution Process Policy is a new two-page policy document.
The policy statement before the Board states that “Harmful to minors--as used in this policy, means that quality of description or representation, in whatever form, of nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sadomasochistic abuse, when it:
“Taken as a whole, predominantly appeals to the prurient, shameful, or morbid interest of minors; Is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable material for minors; and Is, when taken as a whole, lacking in serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.”
Parents’ Bill Of Rights
The Parents’ Bill of Rights is a single page document that states:
“A parent of a minor child at any school within the district may exercise his or her parental rights using the following procedures:
“1. A parent may review records relating to his or her minor child by contacting the office at his or her child’s school. A mutually agreeable time for parent record review will be scheduled during regular business hours.
“2. A parent may learn about his or her minor child’s courses of study, including, but not limited to, parental access to instructional materials intended for use in the child’s classroom, by contacting the child’s teacher OR principal at the school. Such instructional materials will be made available for parental review during the first two weeks of each grading period, either online or on site upon a parent’s request made during the review period.
“3. A parent may object to instructional materials intended for use in his or her minor child’s classroom or recommended by his or her minor child’s teacher by contacting the principal at the school.
“4. A parent may withdraw his or her minor child from the school’s prescribed course of study in sex education if the parent provides a written objection to his or her child’s participation. Parents will be notified in advance of the sex education course content and parents will be given the opportunity to opt his or her minor child out of participation by notifying the minor child’s teacher in writing.
“5. A parent may provide written notice that photographs or video or voice recordings of his or her minor child are not permitted, subject to applicable public safety and security exceptions, by notifying the minor child’s school in writing upon the child’s enrollment.”
The video below appears on the Oconee County Schools web site.
The screen shot of Stancil above is from that video.
Stancil began speaking on the new board policies at 5:31 in the video.
Oconee County Schools will not allow me to embed its video in this blog, but it is possible to see the video by following the link below.