Duplin Schools develop sricter standards for student behavior
By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on August 16, 2007 1:45 PM
With the start of school less than two weeks away, the Duplin County Board of Education adopted a series of new policies at their meeting last week -- all focused on student behavior.
"We're just wanting to make sure our board policies are updated, and as much as possible, consistent across the county," school Superintendent Dr. Wiley Doby said. "Many of our new policies are an effort to make Duplin County Schools as safe and orderly as possible for our students and staff. That's very important in this day and time."
Included in the new policies are ones dealing with drugs and alcohol, criminal offenses, gang activities and attire and procedures for student searches and suspensions.
The changes will be reflected in the handbooks given out to students at every school.
In terms of gangs, the new policy sets out what clothing and behavior will be considered as being indicative of gang participation.
The need for the policy, Doby explained, reflects the growing trend in Duplin and many other North Carolina counties.
"There has been somewhat of an increase in gang activity throughout the county in the past year, and we wanted to make sure our policies addressed that as efficiently as possible," he said.
Among those things that will come under closer scrutiny are students' clothing, tattoos and any other symbols they might be wearing. Also under close watch will be their behavior -- from flashing gang signs to threatening other students.
"It outlaws anything that has to do with gangs," Doby said.
Punishments will vary based on offense and grade.
Under the new policies, the school system also will have more leeway to determine how criminal behavior will affect students' ability to remain in the classroom.
"Basically any illegal behavior is prohibited," Doby said.
The new policy, he explained, will give school officials the ability to take "reasonable steps" to maintain safety when a student has been charged or convicted of a crime, regardless of whether the incident occurred on school property or at a school function.
"It depends on the circumstances, of course, but reasonable efforts will be made to keep the school safe," Doby said. "The students, though, will continue to be provided with educational opportunities unless they are suspended or expelled."
Other new policies involved penalties for those students found buying, selling, in possession of or even under the influence of any drugs or alcohol while at school. The board also approved procedures for handing down penalties to exceptional children who are misbehaving, as well as what authorities and responsibilities are held by teachers, principals and other school officials.
And finally, Doby said, the board also approved a policy governing how student searches should be conducted.
Following state guidelines, he explained, the policy allows principals the freedom to inspect lockers for any reason, anytime and without permission. To search students' persons and personal effects -- bookbags, car interiors, wallets and purses -- principals must have a reasonable suspicion.
Law enforcement officers, on the other hand, Doby explained, must meet the traditional requirements of securing a warrant and have the permission of school officials -- unless they are invited onto campus by the principals.
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