Flagstaff Unified School District board revisits policy changes

Flagstaff Unified School District’s board heard first readings of three policy changes that had been proposed at its previous meeting and approved second readings of eight more.

The previous meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 27, had included discussions on 10 proposed policy changes in response to changes to state legislation, the second set that month. The board did not move on two policies — which covered parental rights and library materials. A third, on student immunizations, had been tabled to review updates from Arizona School Board Association (ASBA) policy services.

The policies returned to the board at its meeting Tuesday after consultations with the district attorney, ASBA policy services, and revisions to simplify and clarify the language.

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An optional policy, JJIA (Intramural Sports) was also removed from the district’s policy manual during the meeting.

Second readings of the policies moved forward after the previous meeting were all approved by the board without comment.

Only three of the board’s five members in President Carol Haden and members Carole Gilmore and Anne Dunno were present at the meeting. Members Dorothy Denetsosie Gishie and Christine Fredericks were absent.

The first readings and removal were all unanimously approved by the board and will return for second readings at its next meeting set for Oct. 25

Policy KB (Parental Involvement in Education) is meant to align with HB 2161 and HB 2439, which amended the parent’s bill of rights and requires districts to create procedures for parents to request access to records related to their child. These both went into effect in September.

“We’ve had a parental involvement policy,” said Michael Penca, district superintendent, “so the changes really are clarifying procedures for parents to have access to the collection of books and materials that are available in our school library. Same with procedures for parents to request a list of books or materials that have been borrowed from the library by their children.”

Haden expressed a need for caution as she seconded the reading’s approval.

“I know we had some concerns about some aspects in terms of a chilling effect,” she said. “I think in terms of the access to counseling transcripts, psychological records or things that students may talk about in confidence with their counselor or psychologist, I think it’s just something we need to keep an eye on. We had previously always had the intent to abide by the law, and I think that the policy is something that helps our staff understand how we need to implement the law.”

Proposed changes to Policy IJNC (Resource Centers/Media Centers/School Libraries) also had to do with parental access to information (specifically library materials), as they too were based on HB 2439.

The policy outlines the process by which families can access the library materials in their child’s schools, as well as a list of materials borrowed by their child.

In response to a question from Gilmore, Penca said individual teacher libraries — such as those common in elementary classrooms — are not included in this policy.

“This would apply to libraries and there’s a carve-out or an exemption. If you don’t have a certified librarian, you wouldn’t have to do any of this law or policy,” he said. “Using that interpretation, this really applies to the collections we have in the school library, not if a teacher has a shelf of books that students read while in class.”

Changes to Policy JLCB (Immunization of Students) had been tabled at the last meeting so that it could be updated to reflect the latest guidance from ASBA policy services.

The policy has been updated to reflect HB 2086, which prevents schools from requiring students to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Policy JJIA (Intramural Programs) was proposed to be removed from the district manual, as it is an optional program and the district does not have an elementary intramural program.

“This is an optional policy that no longer applies to our situation,” said Lance Huffman, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. “The closest thing that we have would fall under our broader athletic policies.”

Tuesday’s board meeting can be viewed on FUSD’s Vimeo page. Discussion of the first readings begins about two hours and 30 minutes into the recording.

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