GREAT FALLS — At a Board Meeting on Monday night, the Great Falls Public Schools Board of Trustees approved revisions to three Board Policies. One involves the district’s hiring process; the second involves the prohibition of marijuana on district property; and the third provides a more comprehensive definition of bullying and changes the language that explains how cases of harassment and bullying are handled.
Let’s break down the changes and additions to the text of each policy.
The first policy, 5120, only underwent minor changes. That policy involves the hiring of personnel for the Great Falls School District. None of the current text of the policy was removed, but the following paragraph was added:
The Board authorizes the Superintendent or the Superintendent’s designee to inquire of past employers about an applicant’s employment on topics including but not limited to: title, role, reason for leaving, work ethic, punctuality, demeanor, collegiality, putting the interests of students first, and suitability for the position in the District. Responses to these inquiries should be documented and considered as part of the screening and hiring process.
Essentially, this minor change allows a person making a hire for a position within the district, as authorized by the Superintendent, to contact a potential candidate’s previous employer(s) and ask about a number of things that were not explicitly stated in the policy previously.
The second policy designates GFPS as a “Drug, Marijuana and Alcohol-Free Workplace.” The word “marijuana” is a new addition to the policy’s title. Also new is the removal of the phrase “including those possessing a ‘medical marijuana’ card” from the sentence, “All employees including those possessing a “medical marijuana” card, are prohibited from….”
Further down in the text of the policy, there is a section that defines a controlled substance for the purposes of the policy. The following text has been added to that section:
- Marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia that is possessed or consumed on the grounds of any property owned or leased by a school district, a public or private preschool, school, or postsecondary school or in a school bus;
- Marijuana smoked in a location where smoking tobacco is prohibited;
- Marijuana consumed in a manner that endangers others;
The final policy is a Community Relations Policy regarding Hazing, Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying, and how instances of those are reported, investigated, and dealt with within the district. This policy underwent the most extensive changes of the three.
First, the previous definition of bullying has been crossed out entirely, and replaced with this text:
“’Bullying’ means any harassment, intimidation, hazing, or threatening, insulting, or demeaning gesture or physical contact, including any intentional written, verbal, or electronic communication (“cyberbullying”) or threat directed against a student that is persistent, severe, or repeated, and that substantially interferes with a student’s educational benefits, opportunities, or performance, that takes place on or immediately adjacent to school grounds, at any school sponsored activity, on school-provided transportation, at any official school bus stop, or anywhere conduct may reasonably be considered to be a threat or an attempted intimidation of a student or staff member or an interference with school purposes or an educational function, and that has the effect of:
- Physically harming a student or damaging a student’s property;
- Knowingly placing a student in reasonable fear of physical harm to the student or damage to the student’s property;
- Creating a hostile educational environment; or
- Substantially and materially disrupting the orderly operation of the school.”
A little bit further down the page, the previous definition of “retaliation” has also been updated, and it now reads, “Retaliation means an intentional act or communication intended as revenge against a person who has reported or participated in an investigation of bullying, harassment, hazing or intimidation; or to improperly influence the reporting, investigation, or discipline that result. from an incidence of bullying, harassment, hazing or intimidation.”
Another major change is the “Consequences” section of the policy. Previously it said “...depending on the age of the students involved and the severity of the infraction, disciplinary and remedial actions for students may include, but not limited to….” and then went on to list punishments such as detention, parent conference, and expulsion.
The only text left untouched is a line that states: “Any student disciplined will be afforded due process as required by District policy for action taken by school administration or the Board of Trustees.” A new paragraph has also been added to the end of this section that reads, “Students whose behavior is found to be in violation of this policy will be subject to discipline up to and including expulsion. Staff whose behavior is found to be in violation of this policy will be subject to discipline up to and including dismissal. Third parties whose behavior is found to be in violation of this policy shall be subject to appropriate sanctions as determined and imposed by the District Administrator or the Board. Individuals may also be referred to law enforcement officials.”
Finally, changes have been made to the “Reporting” section, and the “Investigatory Process” section has been removed all together, two new sections titled “Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies” and “Responsibilities” have been added. The “Retaliation and Reprisal” section has also undergone a complete facelift, losing its original wording in favor of a new paragraph outlining what is defined as “retaliation” and the repercussions for “false charges.”
You can read the full text of the three policies by clicking here and scrolling to pages 42 to 53.