2023 – March 15th HSE School Board Work Session on Handbooks

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The following are my live notes from the working session of the HSE School Board on March 15, 2023. These are notes taken live, so they are subject to having mistakes and errors. These notes are much rougher than normal to the point I wasn’t going to post them. Due to the level of community discussion, however, I’ve gone ahead and added them. For the most accurate information watch the video of the live streamed meeting available on the HSESchools site. Any personal opinions expressed as I write my notes are my own and subject to change.

There are two Informational items that were on the agenda for this meeting:

  1. Handbooks
    Board members and administrators will discuss changes to the 2023-2024 student handbooks.
  2. Referendum Planning
    Administrators will present additional Referendum information to board members and respond to questions.

My notes here only cover the Handbook portion of the work session.


Timeline for the review is aligned with past timeline reviews. A number of slides were presented. I’ve provided the timeline at the bottom of this post.

Stakeholder Input – The process is to ensure that meaningful conversations and collaboration efforts have taken place at the building level and with all stakeholders. The process can vary based on grade level. The input of all stakeholders is valued in regard to updates or revision.

  • Students – Student Government groups, Athletes, Clubs
  • Parents – PTOs, Paretns of Athletes, Newsleters
  • Teachers – Staff meetings, discussion

There is also Association Discussion that happens at the district level. This includes building level discussion that gets input and feedback from *ALL* teachers. Input from teachers is important. All teachers have the ability to give input at the building level, and that feedback is shared with all teachers.


  • Stakeholder groups review the recommended revisions that were determined from their input.
  • Feedback is hten shared with teh District Handbook Team
  • Revision recommendations are coordinated, finalized , and prepared for presentation and approval.

Board Review / Approval

  • Board of Trustees reviews the recommended revisions during the work session in May.
  • Legal counsel reiews recommended revisions
  • Handbook Team conducts final review
  • Board of Trustees gives final approval during one of hte Bord Meetings in June.
  • Handbook Team prepares documents for final upload to the website prior to the start of the school year.

Are there measurements for how many people are giving feedback and participating in the process?


Orr – One of his big concern with the handbook is the consistent application. The items in the handbook are not policy, so how are they defined administratively and at the building level and lower? For example, phones. Is there anything being measured to insure consistency across schools?

>> (response) >> Building principals want to be on the same page. They don’t want to be compared in the community against other schools in a way that shows they are doing something and another school isn’t. There is open communication.

Orr – Also important to acknowledge that across classroom to classroom that different classes can operate differently. For example, teachers can tell kids they can use phones versus putting them away. Likes the discretion, but there is still the issue of consistency across classes.

>> This seems to be driven by the building culture. The freedom and flexibility to operate your own class procedures is the environment that is wanted, but this is based on the climate and culture of the building.

(The example given was phones, but this could be anything)

Board Member: How are complaints made and how is feedback gained?

>> Feedback at the student level is via clubs, through the interventional/etc time. Each building had their own process on how they gained student feedback. They all had a student leadership team that the information goes to. There is generally a discussion around the information that goes to the building administrator and then to the larger group.

Board member: (Suzanne?): Handbooks are done every year. Assumes handbook committee is doing this for the school year. What is the metric the committee has in February regarding decisions that had been made to determine if past updates were successful and such. For example, allowing it to be okay to run in the hallways in the elementary schools. She doesn’t really like it and has heard from some teachers as well. How has this policy turned out in regard to allowing running. How are they measuring whether such changes are successful?

>>> At K-4 level feedback is going to come from feedback and families. Administrators are going to talk all year long on anything that is trouble or needs to be addressed.

>>> It is at the 5th to 12th grade level that they students are really giving the feedback. If students disagree, they will speak their thoughts to their clubs and representatives and let it be known. This is then elevated up through the administrators. They want to hear the student voice as it is important.

>>> They also can look at logs for things such as dress code violations and quantify some of the data.

Board Member (Suzanne): Caps on heads, EarPods in, hoodies up seems to be an issue. She was just at the high school for her son’s situation. Because kid have headsets in and caps/hoodies teachers don’t know and kids are losing attention. Kids need to have respect for our teachers, with full face being seen, facing teacher ready to engage and learn. “We are not a TikTok show, etc.”. We want kids to be comfortable in the classroom, but we also want kids to have respect. Wants the section on hats, hoodies, and masks revisited.

Board Member: If a person with long hair had EarPods in, a teacher wouldn’t know anyway.

Board member: There is a policy that says they can’t have them in.

Board member: (Juanita) – agrees there shouldn’t be hats or hoodies. It’s a respect thing.

>>> They can go back and revisit this.

Number of Dress code violations:

  • 2018 – 32
  • 2019 – 27
  • 2020 – 25
  • 2021 – 6
  • 2022 – 45
  • 2023 YTD – 11 

Board Member: – That’s because we don’t have any code to break. Mid-dress, bare stomach, spaghetti straps, etc. shouldn’t be allowed. It’s not a fashion show. Etc….

>> What this board member mentioned are in the handbooks already. Spaghetti straps, torsos, etc. are all in there.

Board Member (Suzanne) – maybe then it is an enforcement issue. She hears from her kid, friends, teachers, subs… She’s “just saying” that maybe it isn’t enforced as much as it should be.

Board Member (Orr): We’ve gotten to a culture where our teachers might not be enforcing this due to fear of things. Seems policy and handbook are good. It’s a matter of maybe of education, discussion, training, or something else. Teachers need to know board supports them if they enforce the policies.

My comment: Orr commented that it is uncomfortable for him to think of as a guy of enforcing spaghetti straps and such. He gets that.  This is an topic that has been addressed in the past and a common work-around was said that some issues are referred from one teacher to a different teacher to enforce to avoid any such concerns.

>>> Dress codes violations are occurring. They are not as frequent. It is being enforced because they are speaking to the parents.

Board members (Orr): Consequences don’t seem to be defined or written out. Is there any uniform “consequence” to enforcing the handbook? Granted we know they are kids.

>>> A restorative approach is being taken so as to keep kids in class as much as possible. If it is fixable, they send kid to locker and get it fixed. A lot of times things such as this topic can spiral into bigger issues if a big deal is made out of them. Redirection, correction to get kids back in classroom for education. If it is habitual, then the conversations get more serious such as calling home. Deeper look at why rules are getting broken. Try to provide teachable moments.

Board Member (Suzanne): Researched other districts. Not only do other districts have the infractions, they have the consequences under them. What about the kids in the classroom that see kid violating the rules, but don’t necessarily see anything being done.  What is habitual?

>>> Usually 3 strikes. Rarely gets to that point. Kids will generally correct it. It is very few that do things over and over again.

Board (Suzanne): is this true with other issues beyond dress code?

>> If something is related to safety, then they will go to something quicker.

>> There are consequences somewhere in the handbook aligned by infraction.

Board member (Lang?): When the five of us were down in Tennessee, there was stuff that that showed clearly articulating consequences, etc. (My thoughts: I didn’t catch a lot of this. Who were the five down in Tennessee, what were they there for? EDIT: I received an answer on this – Lang and four administrators were in Tennessee in regard to the FORD Next Generation Learning program.)

Employability is important to. Aligning and coaching our kids to behave in a way that transfers out to the workplace when they leave. (My words on what she said).

>>> Employability skills lessons cover a lot of this including dress code, handshakes, etc.

Board (Orr) – Agreed. They are kids, so they are still learning.

(MY COMMENT: These are not reading, writing, and math skills. These are social skills – part of that, um, SEL thing – the S in SEL. )

Board (Orr) – These are kids and we have to remember who the adults are. Good to get kids involved, but the adults need to make the decisions.

Board member (Sarah PR )- Focusing on employability is good, but we need to pick our battles. In K-4 if a kid wears their pajamas, then is that really a big issue to focus on? (Does wearing PJs impact their ability to learn?)

Board member (Suzanne): Need to start some things at an early age. To have a respectful age. We want kids to be comfortable, but we want them to be respectful. Want our kids covered. Don’t need distractions of costumes, pajamas, and such.

Side note: (Costumes are not allowed). Pajamas are keeping kids comfortable.

Orr – doesn’t have an issue with pajamas in the lower grades.

Board member (Sarah D) – Talking about dress code. Is what is in the handbook acceptable at minimum level? There is nothing in the handbook that prohibits a teacher form saying hoods down, no Earpods, etc. in their class.

Orr – don’t want teachers to be made the bad guy.

Board member (Sarah D)- Is this any different form a teacher allowing gum in one class but not in another? We give teachers discretion on how to operate their own classrooms.

Orr – agreed, but asked to codify that teachers can go beyond it. He considered that the handbook was the “most” that could be enforced, and that a student could say “Nope, the handbook says I can”.

>> Isn’t it now it is now, that teachers can set the rules for their classroom and do that at the beginning of the year?

Board (Suzanne) – She feels like some things are not being enforced and teachers feel that they can’t enforce additional things in their handbook.

>> The focus today was to explain the process for reviewing the handbook. If teachers have an issue with things such as hoodies in classrooms, this process is a time when teacher can easily communicate that. They (administration) have not heard any issues on such a topic at this point.

Dr. Stokes >> We want children to wear clothes that their parents can afford and that is comfortable. What might be respectful for one might not be for others. As such, might need to define what ‘respect’ is if the term is going to be used. Every teacher knows classroom management from the classroom management 101 course they had in college. They learned that they lead the charge in their own classroom. Children will rise to the expectants that a teacher sets. (My comment: YES – unlike most board members, teachers are TRAINED and thus the professionals in this.)


Orr – Wanted to switch topic to bullying. He read the policy. Verbal, written, images, physical acts, aggression, etc.  with intent to harass, humiliate, etc. (long policy, so you can find it online). He read it and said he likes it. Someone indicated it was copied from state code.

How are we doing on this, is it being measured, how are they doing?

Suzanne asked if a sentence can be added if it is state code?

>>> No – have to leave it alone because it is state code.

She asked if a sentence could be added somewhere else then. “#4 provided by the school” She wanted to know if additional wording could be added about the targeted kid being or doing something to the benefit of the bully. (My comment: This is poor wording on my part, listen to the video).

>> There is a policy that is referenced in the handbook.

There was a situation where a targeted child was made to do something for another kid – things like carrying books and such.

>> Dr. Stokes – a lot of things are called bullying that are not bullying. Some things are harassment. She said the example that Suzanne gave doesn’t necessarily rise to the level of bullying. There is a state-level code definition they have to follow. There are situations that they deal with where kids are being a goofball or harassing, but not necessary a bullying. “Bullying” is used too loosely.

Board member said the focus of the meeting is on the process of updating the handbook and that there are other times for digging into specifics throughout that process.

It was asked, who was on the committee, is there a survey, etc. (Good questions, I missed).

>>> Yes. The input on the handbook has increased over the years. She defined the team (principals representing grade levels, coaches, etc.) They have numbers for the parents that engaged and have given input. All parents can give input (as of 5 years ago). There are opportunities to give input from all teachers, parents, and students.

Board (Pascoe?): What do you tell parents that want their voice heard?

>>> They should reach out to their child’s building administrators to give feedback. The administrator will bring that when it comes time to update.

Board (Pascoe?): What about at teacher that isn’t comfortable raising issues. (such as dress codes)

>>> There is a process for working through the association.

Orr – This is only a scheduling meeting, but he is going to bring it up – microaggressions. He has issues with it. He can read quotes form doctors, psychologists, media physicians, etc. Looked for sources that were not controversial. Said he would share the articles.  He read quotes. (My comment: Feedback after the meeting indicated that his sources were still considered biased.)

Free speech within limits. Kids need to be respectful.  (A lot of stuff covered, I just can’t keep up with the notes and catch the details correctly. You’ll need to watch the recording for this.)

>>> There have been zero infractions with microaggressions. There have been a few cases where kids have come together to discussion some insensitivity, but no infractions. They feel the language is to educate and support the kids who feel this needs to be in the handbook.

Board: Are you saying that there is no need for the microaggression?:

>>> No, they are not saying that. The district is following through what is in the handbook. There have been no habitual issues, they have worked through the issues that have happened. There have been teachable moments where students have felt supported.

Board – When a situation arises, do teachers feel comfortable to have the dialog. Do they have the tools they need? Are there teacher that don’t feel comfortable with this?

>>> We’d love to have district-wide training on microaggressions. Right now it is building level training. It would be helpful to have a district-wide training on microaggressions so everyone is on the same page and include children in that training to say what it is like on a day-to-day basis.

Board: (didn’t catch this)

>> Even with training there will be discrepancies. (more) There will be teachers that are uncomfortable…..

Board: Are you then saying teachers are uncomfortable enforcing these things?

>>> There are teachers uncomfortable with all things be it getting to work on time or something related to enforcing a handbook issue. There are teachers that are not comfortable on various, different areas.

Board – Don’t know that directing teachers to the association to the best solution for all teachers.

<UNCLE – I can’t keep up with the notes. This is a meeting you have to watch to get the details. >

900 teachers in the association. Everyone has the ability to participate in any discussion. Every teacher has the opportunity to be involved in those discussions. There is nothing that any teacher not in the association is unable to come to the association with. (My comment: In short – you don’t have to be a paying member of the association to use the association.)

>> Our community has not been able to have the uncomfortable conversations.

The association rep commented: “You said we didn’t represent all teachers voices, and we do.” The Association is the exclusive voice, but with discussion, ever teacher has the opportunity to go to them or their discussion representatives or the director, or many others. There are a ton of contact points, so teachers have every opportunity to have a voice in the process because there are so many options for them. But, they have to be willing come forward. There are teachers that won’t come forward because they are rule followers.

Suzanne – some teachers feel their voice isn’t being heard – “selective hearing”. There are times when teachers feel they will be ridiculed or not heard.

Timeline for handbook review

The following are the important date regarding the handbook approval process:

2/8/231st Meeting – Handbook Committee (Grade Level Leadership)
3/9/232nd Meeting – Handbook Committee (Grade Level Leadership)
4/13/233rd Meeting – Handbook Committee (Grade Level Leadership)
7-12 take to building level discussion.
4/23/23K-6 takes to building level discussion.
4/25/23District Discussion Meeting
5/1/23Handbook Revisions/Drafts emailed to Michelle Brittain-Watts and Danielle Fetters-Thompson
5/4/23Legal Review of recommended revisions
5/16/23Board Work Session – Central Office
6/1/12Final Proposed Changes sent to Danielle Fetters-Thompson and Michelle Brittain-Watts
6/14/23Board Approval – Central Office

This is the end of my notes from this meeting. I captured only a part of the details that were covered in this meeting. For the most accurate understanding, or if this topic is important to you, then WATCH THE VIDEO!

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