School board updates policies on bullying, e-cigarettes, other issues

The Lawrence school board quietly amended several district policies Monday night, including one that prohibits parents from bullying students or staff members.

That was just one of several policy changes the board approved without discussion as part of its consent agenda.

Another puts electronic cigarettes in the same category as other tobacco products and bans their use on school property.

And the board formally updated its policy on weapons to clarify that while it is no longer “illegal” for someone to carry a concealed handgun into a school, it is still prohibited under district policy.

Most of the new policies reflect recent changes in state law, and were recommended as model policies by the Kansas Association of School Boards.

The Kansas Legislature this year passed a bill requiring school districts to update their anti-bullying policies to include actions by parents directed toward students or staff members.

District officials acknowledge that bullying by parents has been an issue at times. On Nov. 25, for example, staff at Prairie Park School phoned police after a parent allegedly made threatening remarks to staff members and principal David Williams.

The new gun policy reflects gun legislation enacted this year that requires most local governments to allow people with valid concealed-carry permits to bring concealed weapons into municipal buildings, unless the building has adequate security to ensure that nobody can bring a weapon into the building.

Public schools were specifically exempt from that law, although school boards may voluntarily choose to allow concealed carry.

The Lawrence district, however, has not changed its stance. The new policy changed one word in the old document so that it now reads that carrying weapons into a school building is “prohibited,” instead of illegal.

The weapons polciy became an issue Oct. 28 when police were called to Sunset Hill school after an employee reported that another staff member was carrying a concealed weapon. No charges were filed after the incident, but district officials said the employee was fired.

Personnel records show that Brenda Little, a food service assistant at Broken Arrow, was terminated that day.

Other policy changes include:

• Guidelines for the use of social networks like Facebook and Twitter by teachers and other faculty to communicate with students.

• An update to the district’s vehicle policy to include bicycles as a vehicle that students can use and park at school.

• And a policy putting the school board, instead of building administrators, in charge of naming rooms or facilities in honor of other people.