Student Code of Conduct revisions advance at OPS board meeting

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Published: Apr. 18, 2022 at 10:32 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - As misbehavior in schools continues to rise, the school board for Omaha Public Schools is updating their Code of Conduct guidelines for students.

At Monday night’s meeting, the revisions passed the first reading 9-0.

“This is not board policy, right, this is our code of conduct that we provide to our students and families to set the expectations to how they’re to behave at school and put them on notice of consequences that might be put in place if they don’t meet those expectations,” says board member Nick Thielen.

The guidelines are updated every year, and this year, responses to behavior violations using the district’s leveled intervention approach have been updated.

Violations range from inappropriate clothing or language, to bomb threats and bringing weapons to school. Responses for those violations range from interventions with support staff to school reassignment and expulsion.

The changes come from recommendations from school administrators and teachers, the board reaffirms.

The Code of Conduct states that school administrators determine the punishment of students based on things such as age, intent, severity, and impact of disruption.

The new guidelines say administrators can use more or less severe resolutions based on the situation, giving them less of a one-size-fits-all approach.

Some at the meeting were frustrated with the district’s responses to previous classroom behavior and violence, including Travis Petty, who introduced himself as a significant other to a teacher within OPS.

“Teachers followed protocol with documented student transgressions and the district overturns it with no recourse, my S.O. has been threatened with physical violence, and they decided, sorry, the district decided, that it was better off to put the student back in the classroom,” Petty says.

Others expressed concerns over language in the new guidelines, one of those revisions includes a statement that ‘self-defense’ is not an argument when students are involved in serious fights.

“Really the clarification here is that just because you didn’t throw the first punch doesn’t mean that you weren’t involved in a fight, serious, and contributing to that situation,” Thielen clarifies.

“I simply believe this may have negative implications on students who are only trying to protect themselves,” says Brianna Full, who is running for a seat on the board. “We have to at least leave the option available for students if they actually end up in a situation where they have to defend themselves.”

“I don’t think that there is anything that prevents a student from presenting that defense saying that ‘I was only defending myself’ and the administration, as they have in the past, will look at the context of that situation and decided whether the physical force that student was using was only to defend themself or was something more than that,” Thielen says.

All the proposed revisions to the Code of Conduct can be viewed here.

The revisions will undergo another reading before passing for approval.

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