Alpine School Board members unanimously approved revisions to the employee code of conduct, specifically regarding the interactions between teachers and students.
Board members approved these changes to district policy no. 4060 on Tuesday, March 23 at their regularly scheduled meeting with the purpose of updating the policy since it was last revised in 2010.
Kimberly Byrd, assistant to the superintendent, hopes that the changes added to the code of conduct will provide “a clear description of what is the appropriate boundary and what is not.”
“It’s important that everyone who comes into contact with our students understands appropriate behavior and interaction,” Byrd said. “This will really help all of our employees feel safe and secure in their interactions and being appropriate.”
The revised code of conduct includes definitions for terms in the code to ensure clarity for all parents, teachers and others who interact with students. Training on the changes will be provided to all school administrators in the district, who will then train teachers and staff at their respective schools.
One issue brought up by board members was student versus teacher-initiated hugs. The code of conduct states a teacher-initiated “side hug” is appropriate, while a teacher-initiated “frontal hug” is not.
“You see some kindergarten and first graders who love their teachers, and we don’t want it to be a dynamic where kids feel like (it is) an awkward thing. Kids love their teachers (and) we want them to feel that those dynamics are safe. I appreciate the fact that they clarified staff-initiated versus students just being really excited,” said board meeting Julie King.
Board members also expressed concerns about how students and teachers interact and get to know each other throughout the school year.
“It seems like every teacher I’ve ever had has talked to me about their personal life and I think it’s hard for a teacher to really relate to a student without being a little bit vulnerable and talking about their family,” said board president Mark Clement.
Byrd assured the school board that teachers will be able to use their best judgement for interactions with students, and that the teachers should not worry as long as their interactions with students are appropriate.
More information on Alpine School District’s policies is available on its website.