District 200 postpones new Code of Conduct vote

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

The District 200 Board of Education will continue its deliberations on a revamped Code of Conduct, which governs how students are disciplined at Oak Park and River Forest High School, until next month.

The administration was looking for approval of the revised code at the board's May 23 meeting, but some members, including new D200 board members who were elected in April, asked for more time to review the recommended changes.

The changes had been discussed with the previous board for several months. The high school implemented some of the proposed changes during this school year as pilot programs.

The revised code includes scaling down the range of consequences students can receive for a single infraction.

OPRF this year piloted a "one-to-one model," where a student receives a specific consequence for a specific infraction. Prior to that, multiple consequences were listed for an infraction.

OPRF Principal Nathaniel Rouse says the administration likes that new model.

"In previous years we've had ranges of consequences that could be given for any infraction," Rouse said. "Our goal in going to a one-to-one model is to simplify our Code of Conduct and remove the range of consequences that have been perceived as inconsistent and more punitive over the years."

Rouse noted, however, that every discipline case is different, which may require additional consequences or lesser ones. He said the school's student intervention directors, who administer consequences, will make that determination.

"Although we have a consequence listed as a map and guideline, that can ebb and flow, based on those mitigating circumstances," Rouse said.

The school also piloted a "Suspension Reduction Program" this school year. If a student is suspended, he or she can have those out-of-class days reduced by agreeing to participate in the program, which includes counseling.

That program was tweaked this year, Rouse said. Now students are required to serve at least 50 percent of their suspension for the most serious infractions.

"We've learned that with some of our most egregious offensives this year — the fighting, cyber-bullying, threats, under the influence, etc. — having those students return to our campus without an appropriate time outside of the learning environment may in fact send the wrong message to the student, in addition to the remaining students in our learning environment."

Once approved this summer, the new Code of Conduct will go into effect in the 2013-2014 school year.

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