Oxford Schools update Code of Conduct to address, prevent fighting

Published 1:48 pm Wednesday, March 2, 2022

The Oxford Schools Board of Trustees approved revisions to the Code of Conduct that include an extension of suspension periods and introduces the possibility of intervention meetings with parent-guardians to address a trend of physical altercations at their secondary schools.

Discipline is down across the district in reference to the total number of referrals the OSD office is getting from classroom teachers and administrators, reported Superintendent Bradley Roberson. Despite those low numbers, the board wanted to address a concerning trend amongst their 5th to 12th graders.

“One category that we’ve been watching closely is the number of physical altercations we’re having in schools,” said Roberson. “While our numbers are currently less than the average number of physical altercations that we’ve had in 2016-17, if we continue on this trajectory, we will exceed those number of altercations at a couple of our secondary schools.”

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Reportedly, Oxford Middle School experienced an altercation between two female students on Friday, Feb. 22. Those two students received disciplinary actions according to the Code of Conduct as it read at the time. Earlier in February, another altercation by two students over a desk was reported by The Eagle.

“We have a lot of unregulated students right now coming out of post-pandemic era and we’re doing the best we can to meet their needs,” said Roberson, “but, at the same time, continue to have a safe and orderly school for all of our students.”

Changes to the Code of Conduct include the addition of “improper use of cell phone” under the school disturbances listed on page 14 of the book. The addition will address recordings of physical altercations with the goal to reduce these occurrences.

Although the penalty for violating this code will be at the discretion of the school administrator, students will possibly be subject to a five-day suspension if they are filming a fight.

“It’s basically the Bystander Effect,” said Roberson, addressing a studied social theory that states that individuals are less likely to offer help to a victim when there are other people present. “We have students that are basically trying to film misconduct of other students when it occurs in some of our secondary schools. This is primarily at our middle school and high school and we wanted to deter that.”

The second and final change was made under the code’s fighting subhead located on page 12. The penalty is no longer at the school administrator’s discretion.

If a student is engaged in a fight, the student is automatically suspended for nine days and referred to a disciplinary hearing. Prior to this change, students in 5th and 6th grade were suspended up to three days and middle and high school students from three to five days.

“We certainly want to make sure that we have a deterrent that is significant enough that this behavior is not tolerated and known to the students that it will not be tolerated,” said Board Trustee Carter Myers.

Consequences decided by the disciplinary committee may consist of suspension from extracurricular activities like athletic teams or prom up to 45 days, mandatory student and parent counseling, placement in the Alternative Education program and/or expulsion, which is likely for repeat offenders.

Roberson said the disciplinary hearing will provide consistency in dealing with these situations and will be dealt with by the Student Services Department led by LaTonya Robertson. The hearings also allow the parents and students to share their side of the story as well as the administration’s perspective and give due process to all sides.

The mandatory student and parent counseling sessions are an effort to get parents back involved with their child’s behavior at school. These sessions are not automatic penalties and are only issued at the disciplinary board’s discretion.

“This will be a joint session between the student, parent and behavior coach — and they are certified,” said Roberson. “This therapist can have one session and if the therapist feels like the resolution has been had, then that’s the end of it.”

If a resolution was not reached by the end of the first session, the coach will recommend a second session. If a resolution is achieved then, parents and students will be referred to Youth Villages, a private nonprofit organization dedicated to helping emotionally and behaviorally troubled children and their families live successfully, to continue services from there.

If a parent refuses to attend the mandatory meetings, the child will not be allowed to return to the school.

Students will have access to homework while they are undergoing suspension and students will still have access to Schoology through the iPads they take home.

To notify the school of changes, each school principal will schedule in-person grade level meetings with their students. Public Information Officer Heather Lenard will craft a second message with a consistent message to all parents of 5th-12th grade students.

To view the revised Code of Conduct, click the link below:

Oxford School District Code of Conduct