LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Jefferson County Public Schools is considering loosening its student Code of Conduct policies to reduce punishments for some offenses that would typically remove thousands of students from class each year.

The district's code of conduct committee -- a group of people selected by the district to revise conduct and discipline procedures every two years -- met from January through March and will bring its recommendations to the Jefferson County Board of Education during a 4 p.m. work session Tuesday. 

"When schools operate in a safe and orderly manner, students are more likely to be academically successful," Superintendent Donna Hargens wrote in a letter sent to committee members in March, thanking them for their time and commitment. "JCPS is committed to implementing proactive strategies to ensure the safety of students as well as our staff."

Student behavior and discipline has been a hot topic this year,

If approved by the school board later this spring, long-term district suspensions for elementary, middle and high school students would no longer be an option for inappropriate sexual behavior (excluding assault/abuse). School-level suspension would still an option.

At the elementary level, short-term school-level suspensions would be eliminated for leaving school grounds without permission, forgery/counterfeiting, use of tobacco products, theft/vandalism, academic dishonesty, dress code violation, inappropriate use of district technology, violation of personal electronic device, failure to attend detention and loitering.

Elementary students would also no longer face long-term suspensions for fighting or striking a student or drug/alcohol possession.

At the middle and high school level, short-term school-level suspensions would no longer be an option for forgery/counterfeiting, profanity/vulgarity, gambling, use/possession of tobacco products, academic dishonesty, dress code violation, inappropriate use of district technology, violation of personal electronic device, failure to attend detention and loitering.

In addition, long-term district suspensions for middle and high school-aged students would no longer be an option for theft or vandalism.

The committee is also recommending the offense of failure to follow rules/failure to obey to be removed from code and the offense of deliberate disruption to include levels specific to impact: minor, moderate and significant.

The last time the code of conduct was reviewed was in 2014. At the time, one of the goals was to reduce the number of days students are suspended and losing instructional time.

District officials say that the elimination of 4-5 day suspensions resulted in a slight decrease, but they have not been eliminated yet. 

Through the 96th day of school, 4-5 day suspensions represented 3 percent of all suspensions in 2014-15 and represent 2.1 percent this year.

Another goal last time was to fully implement Positive Behavior & Intervention Supports (PBIS), a strategy used at thousands of schools across the country to create a positive learning climate.

The idea is to use positive and restorative measures as a first resort for incidents that mandated suspension, such as fighting.

Data shows that the percentage of suspensions for fighting have slightly decreased in the past year; 62 percent of fighting referrals resulted in suspension in 2014-15 compared to 59 percent this year.

Implementation of the code of conduct was brought up as a main problem last time. Some principals told the committee that consistency in enforcing the code of conduct varies from school to school. They said what warrants a suspension at one school may not warrant a suspension at another school.

All of Tuesday's school board meetings will be held at Fairdale High School, 1001 Fairdale Road.


Reporter Antoinette Konz covers K-12 education for WDRB News. She can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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