By WAYLON CUNNINGHAM
Liberty Hill school trustees approved a number of minor changes to district policy Monday, following the recommendations made by the Texas Association of School Boards in their first update since the end of the legislative session.
“Expect many more to come,” said Superintendent Rob Hart.
TASB reviews new legislative actions at the state and federal level, and interprets them into policy for local school districts to follow.
Hart summarized the changes.
An employee with a handgun license will now be able to store their weapon in their car in the parking lot, provided it is not loaded and is not in plain view. Previously, parking lots were technically allowed only as long as there were “no student activities involved,” Hart said, but school band practice is regularly held in the parking lot. Now parking lots are specifically mentioned as an exception in the policy text, which also covers off-campus district-owned parking areas as well.
The superintendent is now designated as having the authority in some circumstances to terminate the contract of a teacher found to have romantic or sexual relations with a student. No approval by the school board will be necessary, “so it can happen instantly,” Hart said. The change followed from Senate Bill 7 passed in the last session, which holds superintendents and principals responsible when they do not report a teacher’s known criminal record or an incident of inappropriate behavior.
Trustees are now required to check in with the office when visiting a school during business hours.
“This doesn’t mean you have to if you’re there on a Friday night for a basketball game,” Hart told the board members.
The district will no longer be compelled to have video surveillance in all special education classrooms if a parent requests it in one classroom. This previous requirement was a result of a law that, Hart says, only inadvertently had this effect through unclear language. Its intention was instead to limit the surveillance to those specific classrooms requested. The bill was amended at the beginning of the session, Hart said. The district policy now reflects the original intention.
Up to four days of absences can be excused for a student 17 years or older for activities related to enlisting in the military.
“It’s like [college] visits, but for the military,” Hart said.
Also, the principal of a school can now authorize representatives of “patriotic societies”— defined in the new law as a “youth membership organization […] with an educational purpose that promotes patriotism and civic involvement”— the opportunity to speak to students about joining. The principal is allowed complete discretion over the time and day of these efforts, but it must not be more than one day and any presentation must not be more than 10 minutes.
If head lice is found in a classroom, all parents of children in that classroom must be notified.
“This can be kind of sticky because it can also be a HIPAA violation if one [student] is identified, so we can’t do that,” Hart said. “We just have to notify that it has been discovered.”
HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is a federal law that among other things, protects the privacy of health information.
Cyberbullying will now be included under the district’s definition of bullying.
Several of the other policy changes were already in effect at Liberty Hill schools, Hart said. A requirement that schools post that visitors are required to sign in is already practiced, for example.
Also at the meeting, trustees approved a new membership list for the School Health Advisory Committee (SHAC). Members of SHAC, which meets four times a year to discuss the wellbeing of students and faculty, are mostly made up of parents and community members, though it also includes several non-voting members from the district.
Members for the new school year approved by the Board include John Clark as Past Chair, Megan Burk as Chair, Heather Konesheck as Chair-Elect, and Krista Baty, Samantha Dieterich, Fabiola Hurtado, Glen Reid, and Laura Sylva as members. SHAC voting member terms begin in November and end in October. The Chair and Chair-Elect will be installed at their November meeting.
John Clark, SHAC’s Past Chair, presented the committee’s annual report to the Board.
Liberty Fit, the committee’s annual health fair, was a success this year, he said, and it will continue to be one of their focuses going forward into next year. New focuses for 2017-2018 will include addressing tobacco and vapor use on campus, and sex education.
The Board also approved the retirement of high school English teacher Beverly Salter in December 2017.
Trustee Jeff Madison was not present Monday.