School board ignores policy

Unionville-Chadds Ford School directors voted against following their own policy yesterday when they held a meeting with only four members physically present. Members later voted to strip out conditions of the student dress code and Superintendent John Sanville said a committee is still reviewing the student code of conduct and should have a proposal for a change in September.

The July 16 meeting was a special meeting held for the primary purpose of appointing a new school doctor. It was an uncommonly brief meeting, lasting a mere 16 minutes compared to the normal meetings that typically run two to three hours.

Board President Jeff Hellrung opened the meeting acknowledging the board policy — number 006.1 — requiring a majority of members be physically present for a meeting in order to allow other members to attend electronically, either by phone or computer.

The board was to have had five of nine members present, but Director Carolyn Daniels had a family emergency and could not attend. She and Director Gregg Lindner were absent, while Directors Elise Anderson, Robert Sage and Vic Dupuis (later) were on the phone. Directors Hellrung, Tom Day, Steve Simonson and John Murphy were physically present.

Hellrung said the options were to cancel or postpone the meeting, or to vote to suspend the rules and hold the meeting without a quorum. He motioned to move forward with the meeting, saying "it’s a bad idea in general to violate board policy, but it’s not something that’s forbidden. The policy is there for us; we’re not there for policy."

He justified suspending the rule because of the short agenda and for the need for approving a personnel matter.

In response to a question from Murphy, Superintendent John Sanville said voting to suspend the policy was not in violation of the state’s Sunshine Act and was "legal by the school code, as well."

The vote was 6-0 to hold the meeting despite the policy. Afterward, Hellrung suggested that Murphy discuss the policy with Sanville to whether there should be a change.

Sanville’s superintendent report consisted of a brief update on the review of the Code of Student Conduct, policy 218. The policy has come under scrutiny because of suspensions levied against students who attended school functions after drinking, and others who vandalized high school property.

He said the review committee began its work in June and will continue to meet through August with the goal of having a draft of a revised policy for the board to consider in September.

Sanville added that people with questions or with input on the code of conduct should contact Assistant Superintendent John Nolen.

The board voted 6-0 to contract with Dr. Karl Zimmerman to perform physician services for district students. Among those services are writing "prescriptions for Albuterol, EpiPens, Narcan and oxygen." He will be paid $4,500 through June 30, 2019.

Zimmerman will be the only doctor. Sanville said the district typically contracts with only one doctor at a time.

Directors also voted to amend the high and junior high school dress code. Hellrung referred to the change as "radically new," and likened it to a dress code adopted at General Motors, a policy that was shortened from 12-13 pages to one that, according to Hellrung, says only that people should dress appropriately.

"That became their new policy and that’s something like what we’ve done. We’re asking our students to dress appropriately. We are trusting our student and our parents that they’re not going to let their students out the door if they ’re dressed inappropriately. And we’re trusting our administration for cases when they feel a line has been crossed," Herllrung said.

The amended policy strips out more than a page of specifics on dress, leaving only:

"The Unionville-Chadds Ford School District considered basic guidelines when determining appropriate school attire. These guidelines include:

Modesty
Cleanliness
Health
Preservation of the educational environment
Safety

The Unionville-Chadds Ford School District believes that student dress and overall appearance should foster a positive and productive environment and should reflect pride in one's self as well as our school. We further believe that student dress and appearance is a shared responsibility of the home and the school. The administration will make the final judgment on the appropriateness of clothing and/or appearance and reserves the right to prohibit students from wearing any articles of clothing or other items that lead or may foreseeably result in the disruption of, or interference with the school environment."

 

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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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