The Seneca Board of Education adopted new anti-hazing policies and asked for a couple of new guidelines to be reviewed in its Tuesday meeting.

The Seneca Board of Education adopted new anti-hazing policies and asked for a couple of new guidelines to be reviewed in its Tuesday meeting.

An incident at the Pittsburg State University football camp in June prompted the changes. Although some of the charges from the incident have been dropped, 11 football players were charged with five misdemeanors and 39 felony charges in Kansas this July.

A code of ethics was implemented earlier this year for extra curricular staff. During its Tuesday meeting the board approved changes to the board policy, the school district’s extra curricular activities and athletic handbook and recommended a no bullying pledge currently in use at the high school to be used from the intermediate to the high school. The board sent a “staff expectations” document and camp supervision plan back to the drawing board.

The revised JFCF board policy section defines hazing. Under the new policy “hazing is defined as any activity, on or off school grounds, that a reasonable person believes would negatively impact the mental or physical health or safety of a student or put the student in a ridiculous, humiliating, stressful or disconcerting position for the purposes of initiation.”

Hazing actions specified in the policy include: forced conduct that could result in extreme embarrassment or criminal activities, acts of physical brutality, whipping, beating, branding, exposure to the elements, forced consumption of food or alcohol and other forced activities.

Because of the high profile issue, board members also looked at each procedure put in place by the school.
The high school’s extra curricular activities and athletic handbook was revised to include a definition of hazing and notes that misconduct penalties will be determined by the administration and suspension will be determined by the board.

The hazing incident charges allege that underclassmen were struck with plastic rods from window blinds. Also as part of the June incident, it was reported that some players placed their genitals on the faces of some of the freshmen players.

The policy now specifically states: “Conduct prohibited by this policy includes, but is not limited to, exposure or contact of genitals, buttocks or breasts, directly or indirectly through contact with undergarments; threats of physical harm; and infliction of physical or mental harm or humiliation.”

The handbook also notes: “If hazing occurs employees must report the incident to school administration immediately.”

An anti-bullying pledge is now signed by high schoolers as part of advisory class.

“It’s a pledge,” said high school principal Tosha Fox. “Not any different than if they were doing DARE.”

Board members asked why the pledge was only in use at the high school and, after some discussion, recommended it be implemented at the intermediate school and above.

“The intermediate school students talked about and knew exactly what went down at the high school,” board president Joe Caputo noted, motioning to adopt the letter as policy.

The board took issue, however, with a staff expectation document to be signed by teachers stating they will not leave classes or groups unsupervised at any time, except for emergencies. Failure to comply with terms could result in termination. Board members asked how a single individual could supervise all students at all times at events where they would be split up like band or choir competitions, debate or nights at an athletic camp where the number of students vastly outnumber that of coaches.

The document, said board member David Pickering, shifts an unfair amount of responsibility to the teacher.
“I can tell you — as the spouse of a teacher who would be signing this — they won’t sign it or they won’t take them (on trips),” Pickering said.

Fox agreed to get input from teachers on how the document could be reworded.

Board members also requested a camp supervision plan be reworded to include a checklist of who would be in charge of supervising students and at what times. Language stating that chaperones in charge of students would be responsible for their behavior was stricken from the document with board members noting that students should be responsible for their own behavior.

That document will be signed by parents and students before off-campus activities.

“If we take them they’re under our jurisdiction and supervision from the minute they leave until the minute they get back,” Fox said.

Caputo asked Fox to get faculty input on that document as well.