Vinton County Board of Education passes changes to disclipnary standards after attack on student

Vinton County Board of Education passes changes to disclipnary standards after attack on student

By: Kaitlin Thorne

Posted on:

<MCARTHUR, Ohio (WOUB) – Two days after its regularly scheduled monthly meeting, the Vinton County Board of Education met again for an emergency meeting to discuss and implement changes to the student handbook in response to an August attack of a freshman student.

[Vinton County High School Facebook page]

The meeting was attended by community members, school staff and administration. Board Member Jason Radabaugh was not in attendance.

Board Member Laura Martin requested the emergency meeting during Tuesday’s meeting and stated on Thursday that if discipline was not being handled by the school administration then the Board of Education would step in.

Martin asked if the district is even seeing harassment reported.

“We have a lot of people using the n-word, if I can say it that way, and verbal harassment,” Martin said. “Are we getting letters, are we writing these papers up?”

According to the Vinton County Local Schools Student Handbook, the current procedure for reporting harassment in the district includes filling out the harassment report form included in the handbook. Assistant Superintendent Teresa Snider serves as an Anti-Harassment Complaint Coordinator for the district and said that once they receive a harassment report then they launch an investigation. So far this school year only one report has been received.

Board Member Scarlet Newton believes that access and knowledge of the form could be part of the problem as students are not given a physical copy of the handbook. Snider says that physical copies are available if someone wants one, but that most people chose the digital version.

Large parts of Vinton County are not currently able to access the internetand Newton pointed out that many might not have a printer.

“Nobody knows about this form. We live in an area where we need this on paper, ”Newton said.

The community and some members of the board wanted to know what happens after a report is made. Or what happens if an incident occurs and is known to the district without a harassment form, like the attack in August when a freshman girl was beaten in the bathroom by another student while multiple other students watched and recorded on their phones.

Superintendent Rick Brooks has been quiet regarding this attack and continued his stance of not giving details due to the involvement of minors during Thursday’s meeting.

“I cannot and will not speak about any discipline about any of our students in the Vinton County School District,” Brooks said.

Brooks allegedly has kept the details of the district’s investigation into the attack quiet from not only the public, but also the Board of Education. Something Newton and Martin have been vocal about over the last two meetings.

“We are sitting in the dark because we are not told,” Newton said. “We are kept on a very short leash of knowledge and information. I was elected by the people of this county. My employee is Mr. Brooks, I am not Mr. Brooks’ employee. I have a right to know what is going on. ”

Though Brooks would not confirm or deny any disciplinary matter, members of the board and different community members stated that the student who attacked the 15-year-old girl received a three-day suspension. Aric Bledsoe, the father of the student who was attacked, said that less than a week after the first attack the same student was harassing his daughter at school again.

Many in the audience voiced the opinion that the reason this behavior continues in the district is that the three-day suspension is not enough of a deterrent. The handbook currently states that the building principals can assign a suspension for up to 10 days, anything beyond that constitutes an expulsion which has to be handled by the superintendent.

Snider shared with the board and community research that indicates suspension is not always a deterrent and can actually negatively affect the student being punished, possibly furthering bad behavior.

“Every student deserves a public education,” Snider said. “What we’ve got to look at is [that] we are advocates for the kids, so we’ve got to look at redirection behaviors. It’s our job as adults. ”

Newton, who is a nurse, told Snider that while she agrees with not wanting to harm a student with suspension, the district needs to work at protecting the students who are being bullied. She shared that recently she dealt with three different children who tried to kill themselves.

“These are 10, 11, and 12-year-olds. I take care of these babies and I listen to them tell me why they did it, because they couldn’t take it anymore, ”Newton said. “That’s why I will fight until I am blue in the face. Yes, we need to help these bullies, but right now my concern is the kids that are facing this everyday who wake up thinking, ‘Is this the day that I’m going to take my life because I can’t take it anymore? ‘”

Supt. Brooks addressed the crowd after hearing multiple community members share stories of their own family members being assaulted or verbally harassed at the schools.

“We need to find a way to get our parents and our students together and get them involved in this conversation,” Brooks said.

He and Snider both agreed that the district could look into having an outside group come in and give a presentation about anti-bullying or diversity to the students and parents. A plan which sounded familiar to Bledsoe.

“That’s what I was promised last year,” Bledsoe said.

Previously, Bledsoe told WOUB that Brooks promised that the district would bring in diversity training following multiple incidents of his daughter being called racial slurs and another student cutting off her hair extensions in class. Bledsoe has seen no evidence of this training ever taking place.

Board Member Mary Anne Hale said it was time for change in the district.

“I think we have to start walking the talk of what’s in this book and provide a safe learning environment for all of our kids, no matter what size, what color, what shape, what anything. All kids should feel safe and all parents, when you send your kids to school should expect that they will be safe all day long and not be assaulted in a bathroom, ”Hale said.

After lengthy discussion on the best way forward, the Board of Education settled on passing the following changes to the “Penalties for Violations” section of the student handbook:

Violation 5 – “Physically assaulting a staff member. (Mandatory recommendation for expulsion) “

  • Added “or student” and an added requirement to report any assault to the court system.

Violation 14 – “Intentionally or recklessly causing or threatening physical (fighting) or emotional harm to another or behaving in such a manner as to present risk. (Mandatory recommendation for expulsion or discretionary penalty) “

  • Removed “discretionary penalty” and added “mandatory recommendation for suspension or expulsion”

Violation 15 – “Using threats or verbal assault against a staff member or another student. (Discretionary penalty) “

  • Added “mandatory suspension”

Violation 37 – “Any form of bullying or harassment (based on severity), (Mandatory recommendation for expulsion, suspension or discretionary penalty)”

  • Removed “discretionary penalty.

All changes are supposed to be made to the online copy of the handbook and Assistant Supt. Snider said that a physical notice of the changes will be sent home with each student. Additionally Supt. Brooks said that each school will hold an open forum for students and parents to discuss the changes.

Aric Bledsoe said that while he isn’t happy with the situation at the schools, the changes made by the board and the discussions being had are a start. Bledsoe plans to attend future board meetings to keep fighting for changes within the district.

The next Vinton County Board of Education meeting is Oct. 18, at 5 pm at South Elementary in Hamden, Ohio.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button