The Stone County School Board discussed the final updates for the district’s 2020-2021 student handbook at a special meeting on Thursday, July 23.

Superintendent Inita Owen said the new handbook is the result of a lot of input and hard work from administrators.

“This has been a four-year effort,” Owen said. “It’s taken us a while, but I have to give kudos to all the administrators in the district.”

In addition to clerical edits and organization, several policies were updated.

The anti-bullying policy, which was called into question at an earlier board meeting, was discussed again.

At the June 30 board meeting, Parent Shyra Galloway said she did not feel the policy was helpful after her daughter reported bullying and an assault at Stone Middle School this year.

Galloway said she thinks the current policy language is unclear and potentially ineffective.

She said the policy needed to be more specific to prevent bullying.

The district’s current defines bullying and harassment as “(A)ny pattern of gestures or written, electronic or verbal communications, or any physical act or any threatening communication, or any act reasonably perceived as being motivated by any actual or perceived differentiating characteristic that (a) places a student or school employee in actual and reasonable fear of harm to his or her person or damage to his or her property, or (b) creates or is certain to create a hostile environment by substantially interfering with or impairing a student's educational performance, opportunities or benefits.”

Galloway said a student who has been threatened or harassed should not have to prove a pattern and one instance of bullying should be enough to discipline a student for it.

Several board members said they had reviewed the policy after Galloway’s comment.

Board member Jacob Smith brought up Galloway’s initial comment.

He said the wording “any physical act” in the singular phrase is clear enough.

No motion was made to clarify the original policy language.

Owen said there will be changes and edits throughout the handbook before it is finalized.

The student handbook was on the agenda as the second reading.

Other notable updates were made.

In the internet use policy description, a sentence was added to clarify what official business means to an employee. District employees must use their school email to conduct all official business for school, whether it is between a student, parent, fellow instructor, or another staff member.

The district clarified its tobacco policy and specifically banned e-cigarettes and vapes on school property, which includes any event such as prom.

The board went into executive session to discuss the McHenry site proposal on the agenda. No motion was made.

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