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Palm Coast Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022 4 days ago

Flagler School Board still divided on walk-out policy

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The more-detailed policy is not definitive, two board members say.
by: Brent Woronoff Associate Editor

Flagler School Board members Janet McDonald and Jill Woolbright were not in favor of the district’s proposed policy for “boycotts, walkouts, sit-ins and other disruptive acts” the last time it was presented at a workshop.

At the Aug. 2 agenda workshop, they still indicated they will probably vote against it at the next board meeting.

After Flagler Palm Coast High School’s student walkout on March 3. protesting the state’s parental rights bill — also known as the “Don't Say Gay” bill — board members directed attorney Kristy Gavin to add specific language to the walkout policy.

The old policy simply stated: “Any student who participates in a boycott, walkout, sit-in, strike, or any similar disruptive action which interferes with an orderly operation of the school shall be deemed guilty of serious misconduct and shall be subject to suspension or dismissal from school.”

The proposed policy is five paragraphs long and states: “The disruption of the educational program of the schools by disorder or any other purposeful activity will not be permitted.” It then goes on to say: “The Superintendent shall develop procedures to provide guidelines for the school administrators to follow when a school needs to impose restrictions on the time, place, and manner of students desiring to exercise their right to free speech or activity in order to maintain a safe and peaceful campus for all students and district employees.”

McDonald said that without the superintendent’s procedures listed there is too much “wiggle room” in the policy.

Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt said procedures have been written and can be utilized if needed, but she understood them to be operational and not part of board policy.

McDonald said the previous policy was direct with “doable actions.”

“I fully support freedom of speech but I think the amplification of policy is going down the wrong road,” McDonald said.

McDonald also questioned the right of “activity” along with free speech.

Woolbright agreed that the previous policy was clearcut.

“I thought we were writing the policy to make it more specific. Instead, it’s more subjective.”

— JILL WOOLBRIGHT

“That was easily understood,” she said. “What I thought where we got in trouble (with the FPC walkout) was we used past practices to circumvent our policy. When it was allowed, there were not set procedures. So, I thought we were writing the policy to make it more specific. Instead, it’s more subjective. ... I have no ideas what the do’s or don’ts are.”

Board Chair Trevor Tucker said he’s in favor of allowing administrators to decide whether to allow a demonstration based on the superintendent’s guidelines. He said he’d rather not see the superintendent’s procedures be made public, partially for safety reasons.

Gavin suggested replacing the sentence that says, “Students who fail to follow the directive of school site administrators … may be subject to disciplinary action,” with “will be subject to disciplinary action in accordance with the student code of conduct.”

Gavin also suggested adding that students are required to discuss a walkout or demonstration with school administrators in advance.

Cheryl Massaro and Colleen Conklin support the proposed policy.

“It’s much more detailed than two sentences,” Conklin said. “It’s very clear. We disagree, which is fine. But how many times are we going to debate it?”

The “disruptive act policy” was part of a package of policy changes that the board is scheduled to vote on at its Aug. 16 board meeting.

 

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