School Board reviews conduct proposal for members

Darlene M. Johnson | 4/25/2024, 6 p.m.
At its April 22 meeting, the RPS School Board discussed policy changes to School Board procedures and board member conduct.
Mr. Young

At its April 22 meeting, the RPS School Board discussed policy changes to School Board procedures and board member conduct.

The discussion follows a student’s December 2023 complaint against former 4th District Representative Jonathan Young. Mr. Young, who subsequently resigned from the School Board, was not found to have broken any policies at the time of the investigation.

New revisions to the policy presented by the School Board’s attorney directly relate to the complaint, which included Mr. Young taking photos with the student and posting them to social media.

The revisions are based on board member suggestions relating to the conduct of its own members during interactions with students. The current conduct policy does not address board member behavior when interacting with students.

Among the proposed revisions discussed, board members must not:

• Unnecessarily invade students’ personal privacy, such as encouraging students to disclose personal or family problems or relationships.

• Have a conversation about or disclose personal, sexual, family or other private matters to students.

• Have physical contact with students, such as touching, grabbing, rubbing or hugging.

• Communicate or interact with students in a way that may be perceived as overly familiar nor should they address students or allow students to address them with personalized terms of endearment, pet names or otherwise in an overly familiar manner.

•Single out a specific student or group of students for personal attention or friendship beyond professional interactions.

• Engage in banter, illusions, jokes or innuendos of sexual nature with students or engage in what could be perceived as flirtatious interactions with students.

• Conduct private conversations with students unrelated to school activities or the well-being of students, and that take place in locations inaccessible to others.

•Take photographs of students with their own device or post any photographs with or of students on social media without the consent of the parent, guardian or student unless the student is 18 years of age or older.

• Board members also are required to be mindful of personal space when inter-

acting with students and be vigilant about whether their conduct is causing discomfort, distress or emotional harm.

During the meeting, board members raised concerns around the proposed rules about taking photos with students.

Stephanie Rizzi, 5th District, suggested the revisions should include the opt-out policy for photos. The opt-out policy allows parents and guardians to opt-out of their student having photos taken at school. Without this policy mentioned in the revisions, Ms. Rizzi noted that board members would not be able to take photos with students even if parents and guardians do not opt-out of photos.

Mariah White, 2nd District, suggested there could be different interpretations of the policy based on the proposed revisions.

Ms. White said she will make a motion to accept the policy in the next meeting once further revisions are made.

The School Board also discussed staffing shortages. There are currently 185 teacher vacancies, including 84 for the elementary level, 62 for the middle school level and 39 for the high school level, according to a presentation by Chief Talent Officer Maggie Clemmons.

Kenya Gibson, 3rd District, was questioned why there are so many vacancies that are not actively being recruited for.

Ms. Gibson recalled receiving a list of 272 vacant positions not being pursued for recruitment, including 111 teacher positions.

“The job of the talent office is to fill vacancies,” Ms. Gibson said. “So to see a list with 272 positions that are currently vacant that we’re not recruiting for does cause some pause.”

Ms. Gibson requested a detailed breakdown for more clarity on why there are so many vacancies and where the funds from the budget meant for staff pay is going if the vacancies are not being targeted for recruitment.