West Grand schools aim to silence ‘inappropriate’ language
May 22, 2009
When West Grand School District students return to classrooms in late summer, a zero tolerance policy regarding use of inappropriate language will be among changes they face.
The draft policy states: “West Grand High School utilizes zero tolerance procedures for student use of inappropriate language. Inappropriate language includes:
“- Negative words and references involving gender, religion, disability, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity.”
The policy grew out of a West Grand High School Parent Advisory Council meeting in late April, said Todd Bittner, high school counselor, who helped make a presentation about the matter to the Board of Education on Tuesday night.
“Parental support (for the policy) was outstanding,” Bittner said.
“This is a great chance to say, ‘We have a very high standard at West Grand,'” said school board member Dean Billington, who noted he attended the PAC meeting as a parent and board member.
“I think we should set a policy as high as it can be,” he said, later adding that the policy could be difficult to enforce in cases when students are being influenced inappropriately by parents.
It is an excellent policy, “but I think it needs to start in the middle school,” said board member Susan Ritschard.
Social studies teacher Melanie Schmidt, who helped Bittner make the presentation, said students would be apprised of the policy and what is expected of them during, “for lack of a better term … sensitivity training” in a seminar-type setting before classes begin.
Schmidt said not only is such language offensive, students need to become accustomed to not using it because that’s what will be expected of them in the work place.
All agreed that enforcement of the policy should begin slowly so students aren’t caught by surprise.
“I would like to see it taken one step at a time until we work the details out,” said Kevin Chalfant, the incoming superintendent who will begin his official duties on July 1.
After discussion, it was agreed the words “High School” would be replaced with “School District” in the policy so it will apply at grade levels below high school as well.
No board action was required, though board members concurred they would support staff in the policy change and it should be added to the handbook, which the board approves each year.
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