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RISD board members discuss student search policy

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A change in Roswell Independent School District policy concerning student interrogations, searches and arrests will get further revision after school board members expressed concern that language describing who could take part in a search was too vague.

The policy change was on the agenda of Tuesday night’s meeting for a first reading, so no action was scheduled. It is the first of what Superintendent Mike Gottlieb said would be several more policy changes coming before the board.

Board President Alan Gedde and Gottlieb were present in the board room for the meeting, with other board members and staff attending via telephone to comply with the state’s health order limiting the size of public gatherings.

“As I have been reviewing the board policies that we have in place, there were some issues that I had with the lack of clarification for administrators in allowing searches to go on,” Gottlieb said.

“There will be several more policies down the road where we will need to work on this, where the principals will have more guidance,” he said.

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Mireya Trujillo, assistant superintendent for Human Resources, and board members Mona Kirk and Hilda Sanchez worked on the policy revision.

Gottlieb said Kirk and Sanchez were able to offer their experience as teachers and building administrators to the process.

“They bring the aspect to the board of what it’s like to be that building principal when an officer comes in and knows exactly what to do under the heat of the moment,” Gottlieb said.

The policy outlines what actions a building administrator should take when law enforcement or a government agency such as the Department of Children, Youth and Families requests to see, interview or arrest a student at school as well as how and when a search of a student or property can take place.

Board member James Edwards said he was concerned with the language in a section titled “Who may search.”

The first paragraph of the section says certificated school personnel and school security personnel are “authorized persons” to conduct searches.

“An authorized person who is conducting a search may request the assistance of some other person, who upon consent becomes an authorized person for the purpose of that search only,” the policy goes on to say.

Edwards said his concern was with the phrasing “some other person.”

“So that could be anybody. That’s pretty vague,” he said.

“It could be the janitor. It could be a maintenance person,” he said.

Kirk and Gedde said there could be times when a teacher or administrator would have to enlist a nearby staff member who might not be certified or security personnel.

“What if somebody said there’s a gun in a backpack and you don’t have time to go find another certified person, but there’s a janitor right there?” Gedde said.

“You have what they call collective bargaining and the first thing a janitor is going to say or a maintenance person is going to say is ‘That’s not my job. It’s not in the purview of my duties,’” Edwards said.

“That’s fine, you don’t force the issue with them, but then you could get on your radio and call for some backup and hold the student in your office while that backup came,” Kirk said.

Kirk said the “other person” would not necessarily take part in the search, such as times when she had to conduct a search of a female student.

“I needed another female in the office with me, so that became the person that was going to be the authorized person to help me conduct that search. They did nothing other than stand there and witness any time I did that,” she said.

Board member Hope Morales said she agreed the wording should be more specific.

“When we talk about ‘some other person,’ I think the only concern I really have is making sure it is not a minor or a student. It may not be a certified teacher but having an adult within the building be that additional person and not having a student participate is important,” she said.

Trujillo said the language for the policy came from the state school board association. Gottlieb said the district’s attorneys had reviewed the policy prior to Trujillo, Sanchez and Kirk making their revisions.

Kirk said the proposed changes to the policy will be revised before being brought to the board for a second reading and vote.

Also at Tuesday night’s meeting, the board:

• Approved a request by Roswell High School woods and auto teacher Cody Carter to apply for the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Rewards Teacher Excellence program. The company offers three prizes of $100,000 and 15 $50,000 prizes. Carter would like to use the money for his students and metal fabrication students to build a tiny home and trailer.

• Accepted a $6,000 donation from T-Mobile to purchase gloves, masks and other supplies for the RISD Student Nutrition Department for use in the COVID-19 crisis.

• Accepted $1,000 for RHS from The Donors Choose and Keep Kids Learning Program for school supplies, games, puzzles, and arts and crafts supplies.

• Approved the 2020-21 operating budget for Sidney Gutierrez Middle School. The charter school’s governing council approved the $1.9 million budget Monday.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.