Aug 192011

By Teri Walker–

Joseph City Schools stakeholders have until Sept. 13 to review a number of revisions to district policies influencing everything from personnel participation in political activities to medical marijuana use.

The first reading of the proposed policy changes, the majority of which are state mandated, took place during the Aug. 9 meeting of the district governing board. The second reading, which can immediately be followed by adoption of proposed changes, will take place during the Sept. 13 board meeting.

Some of the proposed policy revisions include:

* A school district is prohibited from spending money on memberships in associations that attempt to influence the outcome of an election, per House Bill 2002.

* Direction is set by Senate Bill 1141 for school districts and charter schools to require and maintain verifiable documentation of Arizona residency for all pupils who enroll.

* New to the state school policies are provisions related to medical marijuana. One provision states that unless a school district would lose a monetary or licensing-related benefit under federal law or regulations, the district may not discriminate against a person because he or she is a medical marijuana cardholder. Districts also cannot choose not to hire someone, or terminate an employee for a positive test for marijuana, unless the employee used, possessed or was impaired by marijuana on school premises or during work hours.

The policy states that no district will be penalized or denied any benefits under state law for employing a registered medical marijuana cardholder.

The policy includes several restrictions on when and where medical marijuana may be used in relation to school premises and duties, and directs that marijuana may not be ingested in any manner, in any workplace. It also states that if district employees suspect that an employee may be under the influence of marijuana in the workplace, or may be in possession of or distributing the drug in a manner that isn’t consistent with the state’s marijuana laws, the district should inform law enforcement authorities.

* Parents have the right to review learning materials or activities, and remove a student from the activity, class or program where the material is used and request an alternative assignment. The intent of the policy provision is for a district to provide advance access to instructional materials, so parents who object to the material or activity on the basis that it is harmful because of sexual content, violent content, or profane or vulgar language, or because the content questions beliefs related to sex, morality or religion, may remove their child from the setting prior to exposure to the material. The school district would be required to obtain signed, written consent from a student’s parent or guardian before using video, audio or electronic materials that may be inappropriate for the age of the student.

* To provide consistency across the state, a revised policy requires a child attend not less than 180 school days, rather than the previous 175.

* Senate Bill 1263 allows a school district to sell or lease any school property required for a public purpose, provided the action doesn’t disrupt the normal operation of a school. The district may sell or lease the property to the state, a county, a city, another school district or a tribal government agency.

The bill also allows a governing board to donate surplus or outdated learning materials, educational equipment and furnishings to nonprofit community organizations if the board determines the cost of selling the materials would be equal to or exceed the estimated market value of the materials. The governing board could also opt to offer the outdated materials and equipment to district students before offering them for public sale.

Other policy changes related to community use of school facilities, public conduct on school property, student grievances, student fundraising and interscholastic sports safety are also included in the revisions.

A copy of the proposed school policy revisions is available for review at the Joseph City Unified School District Office, located at 8176 N. Westover St.