Windham Southeast School District (WSESD) Policy and Amendment Committee Meeting Minutes

Note: These minutes should be considered preliminary until they are approved at the
next Policy and Amendment Committee meeting.
Windham Southeast School District (WSESD) Policy and Amendment Committee
Tuesday, November 21, 2023
Regular meeting 2:30 pm
Hybrid meeting: WSESU Central Office, 53 Green St., Brattleboro, VT and
Remotely via Zoom
Policy and Amendment Committee members present: Deborah Stanford (DS, Chair),
Tim Maciel (TM), Eva Nolan (EN, via Zoom)
WSESD/U Staff and Administrators present: Mo Hart (MH), Michael Kelliher (MK), Paul
Smith (PS), Kerry Amidon (KA, via Zoom)
Guests attending: Aidy Holding (AH), Shannon Kelly (SK), Mikaela Simms (MS), Emily
Marker (EM via Zoom), Liz Adams (LA, via Zoom), Abigail Mnookin (via Zoom), Adriana
Negron (via Zoom), Alex Holding (via Zoom), Ana Ocasio (via Zoom), Anne Koplinka-
Loehr (via Zoom), Hannah Linder-Finlay (via Zoom),, Jessica Nelson (via Zoom), Molly
Sauvain (via Zoom), N. Nabizadeh (via Zoom), Robin Morgan (via Zoom)

Call to Order
Chair DS convened the meeting at 2:36 pm and read the hybrid statement.

I. Approval of Minutes and confirmation of next meeting date
The minutes of 11/7/23 meeting approved by assent.
Agenda was amended to correct the date of next scheduled meeting.
The next Policy and Amendment Committee meetings are scheduled for:
Tuesday, December 5, 2023
Tuesday, December 19, 2023

II. Updates from 11/14/23 Board Meeting
• The following policy was presented for a first reading on 11/14/23 and will go for a second reading on 11/28/23:
o D1 (Personnel Recruitment, Selection, Appointment and Background Checks)
• The following policies went for a second reading on 11/14/23 and will be presented for adoption on 11/28/23:
o F2 (Bus Discipline)
o D11 (Public Complaints about Personnel)
o C9 (Board Commitment to Non-Discrimination).
• The following policy will be presented for a first reading on 11/28/23:
o F32 Student Distribution of Literature

III. Policies

F1 Student Conduct and Discipline
• Reviewed the draft of F1 that included suggestions incorporated after Mike Szostak commented on the policy.
• New edits from today’s discussion:
o Replace “parent” with “family/guardian” in Due Process section.
o Strike out the line “Procedures to be reviewed by Administrators” just above the procedures section that has been struck out.
o In the first line under Due Process: “The failure to provide students and family/guardians with due process has resulted in a breakdown of trust…” will be changed to “…with due process often results in…”
o The two paragraphs with the headings “Due Process” and “Community Involvement” will be moved up into the policy, just above the definitions section.
o In the Racial Disparities section on page 3, the last two sentences of the first paragraph (“Black, Latino/Hispanic, and Native American students…for the same offenses.”) will be merged into a single sentence:
“Black, Latino/Hispanic, and Native American students and students from low-income families, in particular, are far more likely in this country to be suspended, expelled, and arrested, or to receive harsher punishments than their White peers, even for the same behavior.”
• A discussion took place regarding the Staff Training paragraph on page 4: “Every school within the District shall make an annual allocation of their professional development time to these subjects in order to ensure that the disciplinary program in each school is effective and that relevant policies and procedures are equitably applied.” Comments from the discussion included:
o The concern that this could constrain PD days. Can we broaden the options for when this can be addressed?
o The policy doesn’t say how much time is to be dedicated to the topic.
o Is it even effective to provide a little bit of time every year?
o If the wording is too vague, years can go by without addressing the topic in PD.
o PD can be dissemination of key articles, not necessarily face-to-face trainings,
but the concern was raised that articles can be ignored easily and that face-to- face training is more effective.
o The topic – student discipline – is critical and needs to be a part of PD at least once a year. A single training session will not make a make a change.
o Including the topic in evaluations or protocols is important.
o PS and MS will team up on revising the wording of this paragraph, and will get it to MH to include in the draft to be reviewed at the next meeting.
• F1 will be reviewed again at the next meeting before taking it out of committee: Community/student feedback and involvement will come between the first and second reading.
• F1 is on hold until the next meeting to review with edits.

D7 – Volunteers and Work Study Students
• The discussion returned to the fingerprinting paragraph on page 2 (“Commencing on February 1, of each school year, transportation of students within a 35-mile radius…”) and concluded that the original reasons for specifying the February 1 date were no longer pertinent. The paragraph was revised as follows:

“Transportation of students within a 35-mile radius of the school may be provided by a volunteer on a provisional basis, provided that (a) the volunteer has had their fingerprints taken for a full Vermont Crime Investigation Center (VCIC) background check (Results of the fingerprint check may be pending for up to several months) or (b) a second adult traveling in the vehicle has undergone the VCIC background check; i.e., a school employee. Transportation beyond the 35- mile radius must be provided via a contracted service. In the event of extenuating circumstances, any adjustments to the travel radius must have approval of the Superintendent.”

• Additional minor edits to D7 included:
o Page 2: “However, if a volunteer or work-study student becomes convicted of a crime after the fingerprinting background check they are obligated to report this to the school district.”  clarify the “this” by adding the word “conviction”: “…obligated to report this conviction to the school district.”

o Page 2: “…the Principal will carry out a ‘Level 2’ Background Check, which includes a one-time fingerprinting appointment at the Windham County Sheriff’s Office, for a criminal records check…”  remove “Windham County” (the appointment can be scheduled at any Vermont sheriff’s office).

• Discussed the language around car seats / child restraint systems brought in to D7 so that LSP-2 can be rescinded

o “Students age <8 must be in a car seat.”  written out as words: “…under age eight…”

o There is nothing in D7 about students riding in the passenger seat. It is recommended that children stay in back seat until 13.

o For the purposes of the law, a booster seat is considered a car seat. Should we make that explicit: car seat or booster seat? Or: “Child restraint – i.e. car seat or booster seat.”

o The full text of the legal language regarding child restraint systems for motor vehicles will not be included in D7 but the legal reference to 23 V.S.A. § 1258 will be provided.

o LSP-2 also includes mention of insurance. There is already a line in D7 on this: “The vehicle owned by the volunteer driver must be insured under an insurance policy to indemnify against liability for damages for personal injuries of a minimum of $300,000.”

• D7 placed on hold until the next meeting to review with edits. G8 and F36 were kept on hold until the next meeting, to allow time to discuss the proposed gender freedom policy, which brought in a number of guests.

Proposed “District Policy on Gender Freedom in Schools” in conjunction with F34 (Transgender and Gender Creative Students Policy)

• Aidy Holding, planning room coordinator at Putney Central School, brought a proposed new policy (Gender Freedom in Schools) to the committee after looking at F34, with the following rationale and concerns:
o It is clear that there is ongoing consistent harm to transgender kids and adults in school buildings.
o F34 states students can decide how they want people to refer to them: “School staff will respect any requests to use a name and pronoun that corresponds to the student’s gender identity that the student asserts or wishes to assert at school.” The proposed policy gets at what happens when people aren’t respecting that. Systems of accountability are needed.
o There needs to be training up front on how to respond when someone has a shift of identity. People (teachers) at a loss on how to respond when a kid says he’s really a boy. Need a lexicon to draw on to know how to respond. If that lexicon isn’t provided, kids end up being the ones who have to fix it.
o Policies govern students. Policies should be about supporting all students, rather than targeting a specific group of students as the problem.
• Additional highlights of the discussion include:
• “All gender” is a more all-encompassing term than gender neutral. Gender neutral negates gender.
• Question arose on whether the proposed policy should be a second, separate policy from F34, whether it should replace F34, or whether the two should be integrated together.
• Discussion around training:
o Acknowledgement that training is needed, and that we also need to avoid trainings that are done simply to check off a box.
o There are a number of PD needs that fall under children’s health and welfare, also pedagogy and assessing student learning. All these things should be included in one comprehensive plan.
o Teachers want to be able to relate to their students. There are people who can provide trainings. Outright Vermont is an organization that the district can call on for support.
o Needs are different at the high school vs elementary school level.
• Discussion around bathrooms:
o Suggestion was made to look into “open design/gender neutral” bathrooms.
o F34 references locker rooms and bathrooms at the end of the policy. The proposed policy asks that the majority of bathrooms be designated “All-Gender Restrooms.”
o In practice, currently, there might be only one all-gender bathroom that nonbinary kids can use, and sometimes it’s far away from their classrooms. Feels like there is a spotlight on the trans kid going to the bathroom down the hall.
o All kids want that private bathroom. It may be inaccessible or locked. That’s a denial of the basic right to go to the bathroom.
o At Putney Central, all bathrooms are all-gender restrooms — single use that lock from the inside—and behavior incidents have gone down.
o It is really meaningful for kids to have access to bathrooms that suits their identity. There is a big desire for all bathrooms to be all-gender. Seems different than what we’re used to. When there’s not enough privacy, it harms all students.
o Dummerston has implemented all-gender bathrooms—individual stalls within a room.
o Our infrastructure now is large rooms. Doors to stalls can be changed to floor-to- ceiling size to provide additional privacy.
o Because not all staff are comfortable, kids may have the painful, confusing experience of having a staff member say “you’re a girl” or “you’re a boy” when being directed to a gender-segregated bathroom. A top-down approach is needed to keep that from happening.

o We are in the middle of budget season, so the issues here should be brought to these budget meetings to address capital expenses involved.

▪ Because of the immediate harm this is causing staff members and students, it seems like it should be an urgent thing in the budget.
▪ But there has to be agreement on what the community intends to do.

Next steps on this policy:

• We need to come back to this at the next meeting and future meeting, and include outreach to various stakeholders.
• DS requested that AH look at F34 and the proposed Gender Freedom in Schools policy, and assess how the elements could be merged into a single policy that reflects the understanding that we are not targeting a particular group of students.

o A statement is needed on how the two policies would come together — to be sent out to the committee several days before the next meeting.

• These are serious issues. We will need to proceed with deliberation and care. F34 followed best practices from the AOE. We will need to have lawyers and appropriate organizations, such as Outright Vermont, look at any new version.
• This discussion is on hold until the next meeting. Given the urgency, it will go at the top of the agenda for the 12/5 meeting, with a time limit.

Agenda for the next meeting (12/5) will include:
F34 / Gender Freedom (3 pm)
F1, D7, G8, F36

Meeting adjourned at 4:37 pm

Notes taken by Anna Monders (recorder)

Submitted by Tim Maciel (vice chair)

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