Home Uncategorized Haddonfield board of ed to vote on updated policies at next meeting

Haddonfield board of ed to vote on updated policies at next meeting

Changes involve staff dress code and clarified opt-out forms


The Haddonfield School District Board of Education meeting on Oct. 13 was a work session to review the agenda for an action meeting Thursday. 

In a response to prior discussions, board member Lynn Hoag said a new form has been released and made available for parents to opt their students out of health, sex-ed, family life and dissections courses. Assistant Superintendent Gino Priolo explained what happens when a parent wants to opt their student out of a course other than what is listed and in accordance with New Jersey law.

“Sometimes parents might want to opt out of something that goes beyond the scope of what’s required by statute, and the process there is to schedule a meeting with the principal and have an open dialogue about understanding the unique concerns that might be brought and talk factually about what is or isn’t part of the curriculum or being presented,” Priolo explained.

 “Once those two views are heard, the principal will follow with what options are available in that case.”

The opt-out form is available on the district website under Parents and lists a “Parent’s statement of conflict with conscious form,” in addition to the district’s position on the right to opt out.

Up for second reading at the next board meeting will be two policies. The first is on bias crimes or bias-related acts that had previously omitted a phrase requiring the district to notify the borough police department and the bias investigation officer for the county prosecutor’s office when a bias crime or bias-related act has been committed. Though there had been discussion about the ramifications of reporting minors for unintentional acts, the language has been reincluded in the update for the policy. 

“The resolution on the agenda list(s) reasons that the board might oppose these changes,” said Hoag, though none were seen on the draft of the policy available on the district website.

Additionally, the board will vote on an update to Policy 2240 on controversial issues, which was discussed by the equity council in addition to the policy committee. 

In response to community feedback, the committee removed the section that read, “In the discussion of any issue, a teacher may express a personal opinion, provided the expression is characterized as personal opinion and does not attempt to persuade students to the teacher’s point of view from the updated policy.”

“Central to our research surrounds the First Amendment right of teachers,” the board wrote in a statement on the matter. “We consulted with the school district’s solicitor and our policy consultant, Strauss Esmay Associates. Our research concluded that removing the phrase, “a teacher may express a personal opinion” from the policy would not violate the First Amendment rights of teachers and is supported in case law.”

Up for introduction on first reading at Thursday’s meeting will be an updated dress code for district and support staff members more specific than what was in place. 

“(This is) just cleaning up and updating,” Hoag noted. “We all got a little relaxed during COVID, so this is just to encourage professionalism in attire.”

The new regulations deem the following items inappropriate for a staff member to wear: ripped or torn jeans; shorts, sweatpants or workout attire; T-shirts with writing, images and advertising brands; strapless shirts and dresses; beach wear; and hats or head coverings, unless approved for medical or religious reasons.

Board member David Siedell questioned whether teachers wearing shirts that support the l district or other Haddonfield-related attire would be considered “advertising or branding,” and Priolo suggested a grace period for teachers who might need to make adjustments to their wardrobes.

During the board’s committee of the whole meeting, members discussed the purpose and aim of the equity council. While no decisions were made, the board revisited the context behind the council’s creation and acknowledged the work it has done to engage the community and lead to more inclusivity and understanding.

Thursday’s board meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at the high-school library.

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