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Penn Yan board member objects to code of conduct

PENN YAN—The code of conduct is reviewed regularly at Penn Yan Central School District and at the May 28 meeting of the board of education, middle school assistant principal Warren Kinsey reported on changes that were recommended by the review committee. When he had completed his report, board member Mike VanWormer said he wanted items to be included that regard rights, specifically those that acknowledge student’s right to speak about their faith without social or political indoctrination. Board vice president Kathy Guenther said, “This is a slap in the face for our faculty; to say they are indoctrinating students.”
Kinsey responded the document does discuss that matter, referencing respect for diversity of values and wording was adjusted, adding, “I think we can only go so far with it.” Kinsey said he had checked on it with the district’s attorney. VanWormer responded, “I think the attorney did not exclude going further. Teachers should be prohibited from doing anything to influence or indoctrinate students. It should be written in the code that this should not be tolerated.” He said, ”Religious values should not be undermined.” Kinsey responded, “We don’t know what the values are in households.”
VanWormer said it is important to recognize parents’ rights. He wants to include parents more, including requiring signed permission from them for any school club, organization or activity that their child wishes to participate in. He said he had proposed a new policy that would inform parents of what students are involved in after school, advocating regular communication between home and school. Board member Nancy Scher said she was concerned that children might be kept from participating because there is no support at home, adding, “This adds a level of hindrance that concerns me.”
Board president Jeff Morehouse said there could be a list of activities that parents did not want their child to participate in. Board member James Multer Jr. added, “I don’t want to downplay this, but I’m concerned that parent selection of activities would create a hostile environment for the child.” VanWormer responded, “Parents should know all activities their kids are involved in and have given permission for it. We have an obligation to tell parents what their children are doing.” Scher said, “To me this is dinner table conversation, not the school’s responsibility.” Guenther said, “If parents sat down with the kids they would know what they are doing.”
Superintendent of schools Ann Orman asked VanWormer if he had information from parents who are complaining, noting, “We have found kids who are involved keep their grades up so they can stay involved. When the idea of the requirement was discussed there was thought that it would deter some students and we want to encourage participation.”
The board voted to table a vote on the code of conduct until the June 10 meeting of the board of education.
Kinsey reviewed other proposed changes to the district code of conduct. One issue that is facing nearly every school district is the use of cell phones by staff. New language indicates they may only be used during non-instructional times and without students present. The district has a code on student use of cell phones. New language covers wireless devices and they are to be off, not used and not seen during school hours and extended after school detention or retention time. If there is an emergency during the school day, the district can use Connect Ed to call every contact phone number for all students with information on the emergency.
Other code of conduct changes were related to the dress code, specifically wearing chains and language on clothing.

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