Haldane Updates Safety Plan

Haldane High School (File photo by L.S. Armstrong)

Also, adopts ‘meal-shaming’ policy

By Chip Rowe

The Haldane Board of Education will hold two public hearings at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 22, in Room 211 of the high school, to hear feedback on revisions to the district’s safety plan and its code of conduct.

[Update Aug. 19: The public hearing on the district safety plan has been postponed, but the hearing on the code of conduct is still scheduled for Thursday.]

Many details in the safety plan are kept confidential except for staff and police. But its public provisions — which include requirements that staff members wear photo IDs, that each school have a single, secure point of entry and that the district conduct eight evacuation and four lockdown drills each year — can be reviewed at bit.ly/haldane-safety.

The district also established a form at haldaneschool.org for anonymous reports of violence or threats.

Haldane High School (File photo by L.S. Armstrong)

A security audit of the campus earlier this year by Altaris, a consulting firm, found “high compliance” among teachers in keeping their doors locked during class and recommended more window film in ground-level classrooms, that all doors and windows be numbered, and that bollards be installed to prevent cars from entering the playground. The district also installed a new portable radio system that eliminated dead zones on campus.

Editor’s Notebook: My Code of Conduct

The code of conduct was reviewed by a committee led by High School Principal Julia Sniffen and a parent, Siobhan Monteleone. The draft can be seen at bit.ly/haldane-conduct. Among the changes:

  • It adds the right of students to have access to “relevant and objective information concerning drug and alcohol abuse, sexual abuse or general abusive behavior, as well as access to individuals or agencies capable of providing direct assistance to students.”
  • It adds a provision that bans students from recording classroom activity with their phones without permission, or posting approved recordings online without the written OK from the teacher. The draft also adds a provision allowing teachers to confiscate phones for the day for using them in class without approval.
  • It adds skipping detention and missing or leaving class or school to the list of “insubordinate” behaviors that can result in discipline.
  • It removes a section outlining proper behavior on the bus, including a prohibition against large musical instruments, live animals, pottery, glass and pointy objects. “Some of this language was likely the vestiges of issues from long ago,” said Superintendent Philip Benante.
  • It eliminates minimum mandatory suspensions such as one year for bringing a weapon to school, or five days for a violent act or continually disrupting class, to give administrators more discrepancy, said Benante. “Every situation has context, and context matters when dealing with discipline,” he said.
  • It eliminates a provision that school officials may “search a student or the student’s belongings based upon information received from a reliable informant,” defined as someone who has given “accurate and verified” information in the past.
  • It adds a provision allowing a principal to have anyone who refuses to stop engaging in a prohibited conduct removed from campus or a school function.

In other business …

  • To comply with a new state law, the district adopted a “meal-shaming” policy to guide interactions with families who have cafeteria debts. It prohibits the district from identifying students who have debts (other schools have made students wear wristbands or do chores) and forbids the cafeteria from throwing out a meal if a student cannot pay, or hiring debt collectors to hound parents.
  • After hiring Elizabeth Ledkovsky, an attorney who specializes in investigating harassment claims for school districts, and meeting with her in private before its June 18 meeting, the board voted to immediately terminate Nabil Botros, its director of facilities and transportation, nine months after he was hired.
  • High School Principal Julia Sniffen and Athletic Director Chris Salumn were awarded tenure, along with five teachers. Five teacher aides, two cleaners, a mechanic and a bus driver also retired, and the district hired an elementary teacher, Christine Spinelli.
  • The president of the Haldane Elementary student council, Lincoln McCarthy, a rising fifth-grader, told the board that it planned to plant three apple trees on campus as a memorial to longtime teacher Lori Isler, who died in December. “Anyone who knew her knew she loved apples,” he explained.
  • The board voted to extend Benante’s contract by two years, to June 30, 2023. It also signed an agreement with the Haldane Civil Service Employees’ Association through June 30, 2022.

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