Hate-based conduct policy proposed

The Board of Education reviewed a new policy proposal that would prohibit “any form” of hate-based conduct by students, school district employees and “third parties subject to the control of the board” during its March 29 meeting.

“I think this is a really important policy and I’m proud that this board has come forward with this policy proposal,” said Superintendent Kevin Smith.

“In my own limited searching, it struck me that this is not a policy that many boards of education seem to have. This is fairly unique, and that was confirmed through the assistance we got.”

Smith said the policy “captures the sentiment” that the district needs to “reinforce this idea of community,” and "dovetails beautifully with some of our current policies [like] those around bullying, hazing, suspension and expulsion, social networking, employee conduct, nondiscrimination, sexual harassment, civility."

The district defines hate-based conduct as “conduct that attacks, threatens, intimidates, degrades or otherwise infringes on the rights of a person based on such person’s actual or perceived race, religion, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, age, disability (including pregnancy), genetic information, gender identity or expression, veteran status, or any other basis prohibited by state or federal law.”

The proposed policy would prohibit hate-based conduct on school grounds, at school-sponsored activities, including on school buses; and off school grounds “if such conduct is seriously disruptive of the educational process.”

It would also prohibit “discrimination and/or retaliation against an individual who reports or assists in the investigation of an act of hate-based conduct.”

Under the proposed policy, hate-based conduct includes — but is not limited to — the use of a written, oral or electronic communication or a physical act or gesture that:

  • Causes physical or emotional harm;

  • Damages, destroys or defaces any real or personal property;

  • Places a person in reasonable fear of harm to himself or herself, or of damage to his or her property;

  • Creates a hostile environment at school for a person;

  • Infringes on the rights of a person at school; or

  • Substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school.

Hate-based conduct may also include conduct that violates other policies of the board, such as its sexual harassment policy, personnel and non-discrimination policies and bullying prevention and intervention policy.

The proposed policy states that “in certain circumstances, acts of hate-based conduct may be subject to criminal prosecution under state law,” and lays out the following repercussions for violators:

  • Students who engage in hate-based conduct shall be subject to school discipline, up to and including expulsion, in accordance with the district’s Suspension, Expulsion and Removal from Class policy, and consistent with state and federal law.

  • Employees who engage in hate-based conduct shall be subject to discipline, up to and including termination of employment, in accordance with “any applicable district policies, administrative regulations and contractual provisions,” and consistent with state and federal law.

“At first, I thought this was redundant because we have the bullying policy and things like that, but I do think [it’s] good that we decide to have a policy about this,” said education board member Deborah Low.

She suggested adding something about “educational intervention or counseling or family conferences” for students who violate the policy.

Smith said the proposal will be tweaked by the board’s Policy, Communications & Alignment committee and brought back to the board for review.

Click here to read the proposed policy.