Marietta City Schools review policy on civility in system
by Rachel Gray
December 10, 2013 11:52 PM | 2756 views | 4 4 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Marietta school board reviewed a proposed policy Tuesday night intended to encourage civility in the school system.

If enacted by the school board next month, the policy would set a standard of boundaries with repercussions for when the lines are crossed.

Marietta High School Principal Leigh Colburn said she proposed the need for a defined set of rules a couple of months ago to the board, but was not the author of the policy under review.

The first draft will be open to feedback for a month before final consid-eration by the school board Jan. 21.

Colburn said the system has never had a civility policy before, and it was time to formalize a document that all the principals can rely on to navigate “what is appropriate and what is not appropriate.”

A draft of the proposed policy started a month ago to support the system’s teachers and garner a mutual respect with the community.

The new policy would set expectations to community members for interactions with school staff, district personnel and parents, similar to the code of conduct expected in a bank or church, Colburn said.

“Schools should be safe havens where students, staff and parents work cooperatively with one another in the best interest of the student,” Colburn said.

Inappropriate behavior, as it is listed in the draft, includes verbal shouting, abusive or profane language, written slander or defamatory communications, physical intimidation or threats or repeated and harassing phone calls.

Dayton Hibbs, associate superintendent, said there have been some rare incidents that created a need for a system-wide policy.

“I don’t think we are experiencing things we can’t handle,” said Colburn, but she added that over the last ten years “the ability to maintain a civil discourse when you disagree is eroding.”

Colburn said she does not expect everyone to agree, especially with impassioned concerns about children or money, but it should be done with respect.

Communication through voicemail, email, social networks and blogs spur a level of dialogue that would not be reached in person, Colburn said.

“The screen removes the human element,” Colburn said about the lack of facial expressions and misinterpreted tones.

A trespassing crime

The proposal states that parents and other community members have no right under state law to be present on school grounds during school hours.

“Accordingly, visitor presence is a privilege afforded by the district and is at the discretion of the individual school’s principal or designee,” reads the policy, submitted to the board on Tuesday.

Colburn said in her eleven years as a principal she has removed parents from Marietta High due to safety concerns or when the operation of the school was compromised.

“The last thing the school wants to do is break the partnership between a school and a parent. … It would be a pretty dramatic event,” she said.

The draft goes on to say that recurring incidents could result in a ban from a school’s campus with involvement of law enforcement.

Officer David Baldwin of the Marietta Police Department said when someone is no longer allowed on a property, whether private or public, the person is notified with a criminal trespass warning by the police department.

If the restricted person enters the property again, without an invitation by the school in this case, they are subject to arrest, Baldwin said.

Georgia state law states that it is unlawful “for any person to disrupt or interfere with the operation of any public school, public school bus, or public school bus stop,” which is a “misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature.”

Any person that insults or abuses a public school teacher, public school administrator or public school bus driver in the presence and hearing of a pupil while on the premises of any public school or public school bus may be ordered to leave. Failure to do so is a misdemeanor, according to state law.

Under the civility policy principals have the authority to control who is on school property, and refusal by a resident to leave is a misdemeanor.

Even when community members are not on school premises, there is a mutual understanding of decorum on social networking sites, said district spokesman Thomas Algarin.

Aggressive language on a Facebook page associated with a Marietta school could result in a community member not being allowed to post to the webpage in the future, Algarin said.

Comments
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ProJour
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December 13, 2013
“...the ability to maintain a civil discourse when you disagree is eroding.”

This should be etched on every "Welcome to Cobb County" sign.
I've expereinced
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December 13, 2013
Mr. George,

You are under the wrong impression about Marietta administration. At my school there have been numerous incidents where parents have threatened teachers and administrators verbally and physically. There have even been incidents of parents fighting with each other in the presence of students. It is sad that the school system has to take these measures but public servants deserve protection from people who think they are just that...servants.
Stephen GeorgeJr MPA
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December 11, 2013
Isn't the OCGA law concerning interference with a Public School (Official) sufficient as ..."the land was the most corrupt, when the laws were the most numerous ... ."(Sophocles, ancient Greek philosopher) Consequently, it sounds like a power grab by administrators to me. Luckily, this policy proposal would, of course, be subject to judicial review.
A.Martin
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December 12, 2013
Mr. Stephen,

"Power grab by administrators" is the least of it. Have your spouse ever came home in tears because of the verbal abuse they received by a parent? The same parent that time and time again, either via email or verbally, abuse them. And to top it all, the parent only knows their "child" side of the story without acquiring the entire information.

I believe it is about time that teachers and administrators get some kind of protections against this "bullies" that they think that, not only they are correct by doing this, but that it is also their right to treat teachers and administrators however they please.

My honest opinion, any school staff member that receive any of the aforementioned, should be able to press civil charges for assault to any parent that so deserves it. Tell me when it is appropriate to call someone a "racist" just because of the sole fact that their kid is from a different race? Again, have you or your spouse ever endure that?

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