February 18, 2009 THE VILLADOM TIMES I • Page 3 FLOW Area Regional board moving ahead with conduct policy by Frank J. McMahon The Ramapo Indian Hills Board of Education plans to conduct its first reading of the revised policy and regulation, entitled “Conduct Away from School Grounds,” at its next public meeting on Feb. 23 and to vote to adopt the policy and regulation on March 23. The policy and its accompanying regulation have been controversial in the school district since they were introduced at a board meeting in July of 2007 and have been revised several times in response to objections raised by the public. The policy sets the rationale for the action the board could take if a student is charged by the police for use, possession, or consumption of alcohol or illegal drugs, or violation of the state’s Criminal Justice Code, Title 2C, and/or applicable municipal codes or ordinance provisions, at any time while away from school grounds. Its accompanying regulation describes the discipline a student could receive, namely, the suspension from participation in extracurricular activities, which the school board maintains is a privilege and not a right. During the suspensions, the student could also receive educational counseling. Under the provisions of the regulation, a student would not be permitted to participate in any extracurricular activities for seven school days following the first incident, during which time the student would receive educational intervention appropriate to his or her needs. The second incident involving the same student would result in a 90 day exclusion from extracurricular activities and the third would result in a 180 day exclusion from extracurricular activities. The school board has clarified, however, that if the incident in which a student is charged by police happens during the summer when the district’s schools are closed, and the matter is resolved before the schools reopen in September, no disciplinary action would be taken by the school district. The latest revision to the regulation, which was made in January, clarifies what the school board can do by using the district’s existing Code of Student Conduct standards of behavior to determine if the conduct away from school grounds “materially and substantially” interferes with the school district’s standards, policies and procedures, and if appropriate discipline is reasonably necessary. Terry Meese, a parent of an Indian Hills student, has been an opponent of this policy and regulation and she recently stated her opposition in an email to parents and school officials prior to last week’s school board meeting. In her e-mail, Meese pointed out that the alleged violations covered by the policy and regulation occur while the student is in the custody of his or her parents and under their supervision, on weekends, during school vacations, during the summer, at home, or while away, regardless of whether it would impact the school. “It is critical to understand that the school district will undertake this action against your child prior to a determination of guilt or innocence in a court of law,” she stated. “If your child has been accused of committing a crime,” Meese wrote, “any attorney will tell you that it is in the best interests of the child not to discuss the matter with anyone other than their attorney. Protections are in place for conversations between a defendant and his attorney … (but) no such protections exist for discussions, explanations or conversations with school district personnel.” She added, “In addition to being mis- guided, it is still my strong belief that this proposed regulation violates the law.” While the policy was on the work session agenda of the board’s last public meeting, it was not discussed by the board. But Meese asked the board what it would do if a student charged by the police were advised by his or her attorney not to discuss the charges with anyone other than his or her attorney and therefore would not participate in any conference with school officials or counseling activities required by the regulation. Wyckoff representative Jeff Brown, chairman of the board’s Policy Committee, advised Meese that his committee would consider her question and her concerns at its next committee meeting. But trustee Ira Belsky told Meese the board is not prepared to answer her question because it is hypothetical and she should not think the board is dismissing her if it does not answer her question. Meese does not believe the school board has addressed her concerns and she has confirmed that, if this policy and its regulation are adopted in their present form, she will challenge them in court. 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