R-III School Board removes anti-recording language from new policy

John Rohlf, Staff Writer
Posted 6/21/22

The Warren County R-III School Board approved a proposed student discipline policy but removed a portion of the policy that said a student recording or posting a bullying incident to social media …

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R-III School Board removes anti-recording language from new policy

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The Warren County R-III School Board approved a proposed student discipline policy but removed a portion of the policy that said a student recording or posting a bullying incident to social media could be counted as committing their own infraction.

The board voted 4-1 last week to approve the student discipline policy with the removal of the recording language. However, district leaders said there is already similar language in another policy.

Warren County R-III Superintendent Gregg Klinginsmith recommended removing the portion of the proposal related to recording or posting a bullying incident. Klinginsmith stressed he appreciated the work the committee put in for the student discipline policy. He said the district is already covered for student recording and posting of incidents at school under an existing district policy.

“What I really have issue with is redundant policies,” Klinginsmith said. “Because that causes problems down the road. When we change one policy, we often forget to change the other. And then we have conflicting policies, which makes it really hard to enforce.”

Klinginsmith noted the board can address the current recording policy at a later time.

Assistant Superintendent Aaron Jones was part of the district’s discipline committee that proposed updates to the policy. Administrators had concern about the recording and posting of video on social media, Jones said at last week’s board meeting. He stressed it can disrupt the whole learning environment at a school. The committee took verbiage from other school districts who had similar policies in place. He said district administrators are already talking to the students and only rarely suspending students if an incident rises to the bullying level.

“They were able to talk to the kids and say ‘let’s respect each other,’” Jones said. “And that’s what it’s about, is respecting each other. And I think that’s the society we want to live in.

“Instead of when there’s a fight or something going on, everybody flipping out their phone, why don’t we break up the fight? Why don’t we step between them? Why don’t we become a society like that instead of trying to be this other thing?” Jones commented.

Jones referenced Missouri School Board Association policy, which states a recording done for educational purposes is appropriate. If it is not for an educational purpose, it does not need to be done by students or teachers, he said.

“That’s where the conversation went and we felt like it was appropriate,” Jones said. “And that’s where it’s at. If you want to change it, you’re more than welcome to.”

Board member Sarah Janes noted the policy proposal included steps for discipline for bullying and cyberbullying incidents. She asked if the current policy provides direction on the steps for discipline.

The policy currently in place does not provide steps for discipline for recording or posting an incident, Klinginsmith said. It would be beneficial sometimes to have that, Klinginsmith believes.

“I think it’s easier whenever it’s written down clearly like that, but there’s a lot of gray area a lot of times with discipline,” Klinginsmith said. “We have great assistant principals that can interpret that. And it’s what they’ve been doing now.”

Board member Rodger Tucker stressed the board needs to address the policy that currently addresses recording and posting incidents.

“We still need to address that one. And we need to do it before students are back in school,” Tucker said.

Klinginsmith said the board could have a first reading of another policy update at their regular board meeting in July and a second reading at the board meeting in August, which would be before the start of school.

Individuals are currently required to be authorized by district staff to make audio and video recordings, according to the district policy. The current policy says the superintendent or designee has the authority to allow audio and visual recording on district property or at a district activity. Even if the recording is authorized under the policy, the superintendent or designee may prohibit a person or entity from recording for a number of reasons, including to protect privacy interests, to comply with copyright or other licensing or intellectual property limitations, and if the recording creates a disruption to the education or working environment.

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