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BOE approves new student handbooks
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Students and parents should look for revisions in the student handbook as the Newton County Board of Education approved changes to the student manual at its meeting Tuesday.

The board approved changes to both the Newton County School System elementary and secondary student handbooks for the 2013-2014 school year.

The student handbooks were reviewed over the last two months to add revisions, and the board approved changes to the handbooks, which were said to be minimal and included mainly verbiage clarifications and minor updates.

"This is the fewest number of changes we have made and most of the changes are cosmetic or just simply to revise and revisit locations on the page and/or to address changes to be more in line with activities in the school," said Samantha Fuhrey, NCSS deputy superintendent for curriculum and instruction, of the secondary handbook, which is for middle and high school students.

Secondary Handbook Changes

Updates to the secondary student handbook included revisions to rules and the penalties for breaking them, and a number of other minor changes.

Some of the minor changes in the handbook include Challenge Charter Academy being deleted from the list of schools, the 2013-14 school calendar and new meal prices have been added, and qualifications for high school attendance has been clarified where students who attend at least four periods during the school day will now be counted as present.

Some of the major revisions in the handbook include a revised electronic communication devices procedures section, whereas the BOE now permits the use of personal technology for instruction purposes as designated by the administrator or teacher.

Use of personal technology during non-instructional time will now be determined by the school administrators so as to preserve a safe and orderly learning environment.

Other than as necessary to enforce the rules of the school and at the discretion of the school administrator, school system employees will not search for or conduct an investigation to locate lost or stolen items.

There are no longer high school and middle school penalty distinctions for using and possessing tobacco in any form on school property, which now results in: on the first offense, one day of suspension; on the second offense, three days of suspension; on the third offense, five days of suspension; and on the fourth and subsequent offenses, 10 days of suspension for each offense.

Finally, the student handbook now has a section for a chronic disciplinary problem student, which is a student who exhibits a pattern of behavioral characteristics which interfere with the learning process of him/herself and students.

Any student found guilty of this offense will have a parent notified by telephone or mail, have a parent invited to observe their child’s behavior in the classroom and have a disciplinary and behavioral correction plan created.

Further disposition may be assigned at the discretion of the administrator.

Elementary Handbook Changes

In the elementary school handbook, Lee Peck, NCSS executive director for school improvement, said there were also minimal changes made, many of which coincided with the secondary handbook, such as the electronic communications devices revision.

"We went through this same process as the secondary leaders did. We met as an elementary team and we went through the handbook. There were no major changes made; the only thing that we had to do was make sure that we had all of the code of conduct included in the elementary handbook," Peck said.

Though many of the revisions to the elementary school handbook were minor, there are some new rules that were added in the student handbook that were major changes.

Those rules include the violation of dress code, where students who wear inappropriate clothing or clothing in an inappropriate manner will now, at the discretion of the administrator, have a conference, detention, STOP/ISS (in school suspension) or suspension.

Kidnapping, homicide, robbery and providing false information offenses and their dispositions have also been added to the elementary school handbook.

The offenses are already included in the secondary student handbook, and where added to the elementary handbook to align.

In addition, under the section for reckless/disorderly conduct, the offense now includes disruptive behavior on school buses.

"K through 12 has some of the same rules. So we had to go through and make sure those rules were included," Peck said.