Washington County Board of Education adopts new child-abuse policy

The Washington County Board of Education on Tuesday unanimously adopted three policies that will immediately impact the school system’s child-abuse reporting methods, superintendent evaluations and diversity initiatives.

The child-abuse reporting policy requires all employees of Washington County Public Schools to report any incidents of suspected abuse or neglect “as soon as possible, but without compromising student safety.”

Previously, training focused on instructional and administrative staff at schools. But, under the new policy, training will be extended to all school employees, including bus drivers, custodians and cafeteria workers.

“We felt there was an opportunity for other employees,” board President Donna Brightman said. “Whether that be a custodian, food service or a bus driver, anyone who comes in contact with a child who might have the trust or be able to see if something is fairly obviously wrong and try to be that point of contact for that situation. We have enhanced it, and that was the main thrust of this policy revision.”

In July, the Maryland State Department of Education requested that all educational agencies review their child-abuse reporting policies.

The seven-member county school board and its policy committee elected to broaden the school system’s policy, rescinding the existing “outdated” one.

The newly adopted superintendent evaluation policy now requires the schools superintendent’s annual performance evaluation to be a “mutually agreeable” process between the board and superintendent.

The process will be “set forth in the contract between the superintendent and the board of education,” the policy said.

The existing “evaluation of school system employees” policy does not apply because the superintendent is an employee of the school board not the school system.

The board is charged with the “important responsibility” of conducting the superintendent’s performance review, under the policy.

The previous policy, which was rescinded Tuesday, required a written evaluation to be completed by Sept. 15 “or at such time as relevant performance data is available.”

The former policy also required the board to meet in a closed session without the superintendent to “review and assess the superintendent’s performance.”

“Basically, (the new policy) sets up the process,” Brightman said. “Which then triggers the evaluation process, which is always negotiated mutually between a superintendent and the board. It’s in the contract.”

The board also unanimously adopted a diversity policy after minor changes were made since it was proposed on Sept. 1.

The policy now reads: “The Board of Education appreciates and welcomes diversity amongst the members of the school community in age, color, disability, ethnicity, family or marital status, gender identify or expression, language, national origin, physical and mental ability, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, veteran status, and other characteristics that make members of the school community unique. ”

Any employee “found to have exhibited any discriminatory behavior against any other member of the WCPS community may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination,” according to the policy.

The school’s human resources committee submitted the proposal to the policy committee in August.

Each policy is effective immediately, Brightman said.

Source: http://www.heraldmailmedia.com/news/education/washington-county-board-of-education-adopts-new-child-abuse-policy/article_07264bde-6188-11e5-87ee-bfd53af13542.html