KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Knox County Schools administrators are preparing for the new school year under a new superintendent. A slew of policy changes and proposals are on the agenda for the July 13 meeting of the Knox County Board of Education.
A work session that had been scheduled for Monday was canceled, so discussion and voting will take place during the meeting at 5 p.m. on Wednesday in the Summer Place Boardroom at 500 W. Summit Hill Drive in Knoxville.
Anyone wishing to address the Board of Education during a public meeting needed to register by 4 p.m. Tuesday, a day prior to the scheduled meeting.
The board will settle the agenda at the start of the meeting, and it looks to be a busy evening. In addition to 24 policy changes, the board may tackle 15 agreements or contracts, a superintendent evaluation, talk about upgrades for playgrounds at 3 schools, and more. Check out the agenda.
Here are some of the policy changes that could affect the upcoming year, if they are approved:
Beginning this school year, Knox County Schools will maintain a current list of the materials in the school’s library collection that will be posted on the school’s website. The district says it is adopting a policy for developing and reviewing school library collections. This includes the development of a library collection at each school that is “appropriate for the age and maturity levels of the students who access the materials” and a procedure for central office staff to receive and evaluate feedback from students, parents and guardians. The district will also remove any book that is not “appropriate for the age and maturity levels of the students who may access the materials” or is not consistent with the educational mission of the school.” Read proposed changes to the School Libraries policy.
Changing to a 10-point scale instead of a 7-point scale. If approved, the change would mean a score of 90 and above earns an “A,” 80-89 earns a “B,” and so forth, through the letter grades. Knox County Schools use a 7-point scale, meaning students who score 90 to 92 earned a “B” last year but under the new grade scale they would be assigned an “A.” Read the proposed uniform grading policy.
Sharing a threat posted on social media may earn someone the same punishment as the one who made the threat originally. This policy is getting its first edit since 2016. While most of the suggested changes are simply tightening of language, a proposed new paragraph provides a new definition of a threat — it must insinuate harm and “a reasonable person” must interpret it as a threat of harm. The proposed edits also define what constitutes a threat. See proposed changes to the Explosive Devices and Threats policy.
“A threat includes, but is not limited to intent to alarm, annoy, offend, frighten via verbal threats, non-verbal threats, written threats, electronic threats, internet-related threats, threats on social networking websites, sending an image, the use of pictures or drawings to convey a threat, threats made over the telephone and threats made via text-messaging,” the proposed changes state.
Student ID cards would have crisis resource contacts printed on them. District employees attend an annual 2-hour training program in suicide prevention and are expected to be proactive in “maintaining a safe and supportive learning environment” and to report to the principal when they believe a student may be in danger of harming themselves or others. A proposal to add the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline telephone number to student ID cards is being considered. Also, one additional social media handle, telephone number or text number for an additional crisis resource may also be added. The contact info will also be placed “conspicuously” in middle and high schools. Read proposed changes to the Student Suicide Prevention policy.
School bus drivers will be barred from vaping or using e-cigarettes while transporting students. The policy already prohibits profanity, tobacco, drugs, and intoxicating beverages while transporting students, the board is now adding vaping to the list. Read changes proposed to Student Transportation Management policy.
Teachers could take away phones during a class period and return them to the student. Up until now, students who violated the Personal Communication Devices policy would have their devices collected and kept until “the student’s parent or guardian” could retrieve them. Under the newly proposed policy, teachers can withhold a device during a class if it is a distraction to a student or to the class. Read proposed changes to the Use of Personal Communication Devices in School policy.
Training on Automated External Defibrillators (AED) may be offered to school bus drivers contracted with Knox County Schools. An AED automatically determines whether defibrillation should be performed. The device charges and requests delivery of an electrical impulse to an individual’s heart. Now, bus drivers could be offered training on how to use the lifesaving devices. This is an update to a policy that required AED users to be certified in CPR and proper AED use, per guidelines from the American Heart Association. Read proposed changes to the Automated External Defibrillator policy.
Anyone wishing to address the Board of Education during a public meeting will need register by 4 p.m. the day of the meeting. Previously in the policy, there was an option to speak with the Board Vice Chair in person prior to the start of the meeting. That option is deleted in the edited version pending before the board. See changes proposed to the Public Forum policy.
Director of Schools can now say when a non-tenured teacher is let go due to a lack of funding. A non-tenured teacher can be let go “at any time when deemed necessary” for a variety of reasons, none of which would look good on a resume. But with this policy change proposal, the director would be free to clarify if lack of funding was the cause. Read the policy about Suspension/Dismissal of Non-Tenured Teachers.
The first day of school in Knox County is Monday, Aug. 8.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated.