A bill holding school staff and administration more accountable when it comes to anti-bullying efforts is among the legislation passed during this year’s session.
A policy addressing food brought by students and parents for special events is also causing concern for Carson City school officials.
At the school board meeting Tuesday night, Carson City Schools Superintendent Richard Stokes spoke to community members about some of the bills he has been reviewing and how they affect the Carson City School District. He covered those bills during an interview before Tuesday’s meeting.
Senate Bill 504 changes the definition of bullying and cyberbullying in statute and also changes the requirements of how schools discipline bullying. Stokes said this bill will put more responsibility on school staff and administration to take action against bullying.
“This defines disciplinary conditions that may be taken against staff that may observe bullying and fail to take action,” Stokes said. “School employees can be at fault if they knowingly and willingly ignore bullying. It’s an attempt to make sure schools are paying attention and taking appropriate action.”
With this bill, school officials are required to notify parents in one day about the event and follow up and investigate in order to prevent ongoing bullying that may result in a victim self harming. The school district will begin training their principals on how to handle these incidents better in order to attempt to protect their children and to get students to treat each other better.
Another hot topic issue that was discussed at the school board meeting was the controversy over the district’s updated wellness policy and regulation. This issue has been on the school board’s agenda for many months in order to try to pass the policies that best benefit the students and community. The district is addressing food that’s brought into classrooms by students and parents.
Stokes said new federal and state policies regulate students’ nutrition in order to help combat childhood obesity and make sure students learn about making healthy decisions for their physical, emotional and mental health.
“The goal is to create a district policy and regulation that mirrors the expectation of the state and federal government,” Stokes said. “The concern is for students to be eating well, especially at school, and to help expand their thinking to make good decisions like eating right, getting good sleep, good social, physical and emotional wellness so that they are healthy in more ways than just nutrition.”
This policy will address mostly food coming into the school for things like celebrations. Stokes said the problem is when students have celebrations for things like holidays or birthdays, parents bring in treats such as cupcakes or other high sugar content foods, which isn’t giving students healthy food options. The goal is to work with parents to limit the number of times celebrations occur or to use food that meets the requirements for nutrition or to honor the celebration in ways other than food, Stokes said.
“If (high sugar foods for celebrations) is done over and over again, it could become an issue especially with childhood obesity,” Stokes said. “We are trying to get students to eat as healthy as they can and change the thinking to take into account more wellness.”
Prior to these changes, the school district didn’t have much regulation except to follow what state and federal governments regulated with schools and nutrition.
Many parents and community members expressed concern about the policy at the June school board meeting. The school board meeting had a discussion scheduled on the policy to incorporate the feedback and concerns from the community members.
Other bills reviewed by Stokes include:
AB19: This bill provides flexibility for the school board for when it needs to have to fiscal budget to be approved. Previously, the school board needed to have the final budget for the fiscal year to be approved by the third Wednesday in May, however, AB19 allows it now to have until the end of May to get the budget in.
AB166: This new law allows students to be able to receive a State Seal of Biliteracy on their high school diplomas. This allows for students who are bilingual to gain a certificate on their diploma Stokes said could help them when applying for and during college. This law requires students to complete courses of studying in English Language Arts with at least a 2.0 grade point average, pass all of their end of course exams in English Language Arts and demonstrates proficiency in one or more languages outside of English.
“This is neat because it may be able to help students and place them ahead (with colleges),” Stokes said. “It is a money saver and can help student with credits in college.”
AB234: This bill requires teachers who are getting recertified to take courses in multicultural studies. When teachers recertify for their teaching license every 5 years, they are required to take courses to update their credentials, and this new bill requires them to take courses in multiculturalism in order to be ale to teach students about how to be more tolerant of other cultures, Stokes said.