Is the policy on Hawkins BOE student rep eligibility discriminatory?

Jeff Bobo • Jan 8, 2019 at 12:33 PM

ROGERSVILLE — The Hawkins County Board of Education will take a closer look at its policy regarding student representatives on the BOE, which one board member suggested Thursday might be discriminatory and violate state law.

In 2011-12, the BOE student representative program was launched by Vice Chairman Debbie Shedden, allowing two students from each high school, including the K-12 Clinch School, to serve as unpaid, non-voting members of the school board.

BOE member Tecky Hicks expressed concern during Thursday’s meeting, however, that board policy 1.1021, which addresses Student Board Representatives, might violate state law. 

The specific policy section referenced by Hicks states, “One-half of the student representatives shall be enrolled in an academic area of concentration and one-half of the student representatives shall be enrolled in a Career and Technical Education (CTE) area of concentration.”

“I’m not sure if there’s not some discrimination in this policy,” Hicks told the board. “There’s a specific group of people, according to our policy, who can be on this board, and I’m not sure if that’s in violation of what the state law says, because it doesn’t go into as much detail as this policy does.”

Hicks noted that the Tennessee statue regarding student representatives on school boards identifies eligible students as being either on the College Prep track or the Technology track.

Hicks added, “I think we need to take a different look at it because it eliminates a certain group of students in our schools from being able to participate on this board. The other thing about it is, does it give us clear cut of how this is accomplished?”

Shedden said she drafted the policy in conjunction with Oak Ridge Schools in 2011-12.

The board agreed to place the policy on a list of policies that will be discussed at an upcoming workshop, which has yet to be scheduled.

“There could be some discrepancies,” said BOE member Chris Christian. “Mrs. Shedden was the author of this, and it’s been a number of years, so state law could have changed since then.”

Several other policies which were up for final approval Thursday were also pulled to be reviewed at an upcoming policy workshop including: 4.603 Promotion and Retention of Students in Grades K-8; 6.309 Zero Tolerance Offenses; 6.313 Elementary School Discipline; 6.3131 Middle School/High School Discipline; 6.314 Corporal Punishment; 6.200 Attendance; and 6.317 Disciplinary Hearing Authority.

The Corporal Punishment Policy was a topic of discussion at the December BOE meeting when, after the board voted to ban all corporal punishment in the county school system, Hicks suggested there is now no need for a corporal punishment policy.

Board member Holly Helton said she prefers to keep that policy in place because it outlines that corporal punishment is banned, removing all question.

The Disciplinary Hearing Authority policy became a heated topic of discussion in October when, during an appeal hearing on a student expulsion, it was revealed that the board had violated its policy by not renewing the DHA annually. The board subsequently overturned that expulsion under the threat of a lawsuit. 

A link to these Hawkins County board of Education’s policies will be included in the online version of this article at www.timesnews.net.