I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Safe Harbor

About a year ago, I asked a simple question at a Board Workshop. Could we add a "safe harbor" provision to the Student Rights and Responsibilities (R&R) Handbook?

I was cut down by another board member, who stated "Mr. Bergosh, it is already in there"

I did not remeber seeing this clause, but I took my fellow board members' word, and moved on to the next item.

Fast forward a year, and I read the R&R handbook again. It was essentially the same, with some beefed up language on Bullying and Electronic devices---but I still did not see the "safe harbor" clause. So--I asked about it again. Come to find out, my fellow board member was wrong and it had not ever been included in the previous year's R&R handbook. So, again I spoke about why I felt it should be added, and the general feeling was that some safe harbor language should be drafted and that this could be incorporated into this years' R & R handbook.

A couple of days ago, I received this email (below) from the Director of Middle Schools, Mr. Steve Marcanio. I drafted what I felt was a reasoned response, which I sent him today (see bottom of page):

Steve Marcanio
Thursday - June 12, 2008 8:36 AM
Bergosh, Jeff
Dwelle, Jackie; Waters, Donna; West, Linda

Fwd: Secondary SR & R Statement

Mr. Bergosh, in response to your concern about our R & R book having "Safe Harbor" language, please note information below. The language below is currently in the book and has been for a number of years. If you have any further questions regarding this please don't hesitate to contact me.

Thank you very much.

Steve Marcanio
Director, Middle School Education
Escambia County School District
J.E. Hall Educational Center30 East Texar Drive
Pensacola, Florida 32503850.469.5495 - office
850.469.5630 - fax850.393.1137 - cells

>>> Julia Norvell 6/12/2008 7:55 AM >>>This is from page 20 at the top of the page.Note: See Serious and Very Serious Breach of Conduct for prohibited items.

Students who make incidental contact with or observe any prohibited item on campus should not hold or take possession of said item and are to immediately notify the administration.

Mr. Marcanio,

Thanks for forwarding this. I have seen this phrase in the book, but this phrase, in and of itself, does not constitute a safe harbor provision. I am an advocate for the creation and addition of a formal “safe harbor” clause to our R&R handbook.

With respect to the R&R handbook-- I fear that many parents/students will never see this phrase until they are already in trouble. Let's face it--many, if not most, of these pamphlets will end up in the "circular file,” and many students will never see the phrase:

"Students who make incidental contact with or observe any prohibited item on campus should not hold or take possession of said item and are to immediately notify the administration"

Although we would like to think that Parents and Students will read the R&R handbook, we know the truth to be quite the opposite. So, many students, who should NEVER touch anything illegal or dangerous that they might find at school (weapon, illicit substance, contraband, etc) ---will or potentially could find themselves in hot water if they were to handle such an item.

If a student finds a knife in the hallway and picks it up with the altruistic motive to turn it in to the office, do we apply the weapons policy equally to him? Should he be expelled? What if he is an "A" student, no discipline issues, a model student, a boy scout? The answer is of course not.

Suppose that three students (students A,B, and C)on a bus find a loaded .22 revolver. If students A and B proceed to play Russian roulette with the pistol, but student C (who might have knowledge of firearms safety, perhaps a fan of Eddie Eagle) intercedes and takes the weapon from his friends to save them from themselves--Should student C be expelled? Again, the answer is no--even though technically, student C is in violation of the as written draft R&R handbook.

As a matter of practice it is my understanding that at the school level Principals and Deans already apply "safe harbor" logic to situations like I've described above. These unusual situations rarely occur, but they do happen. While I'm glad that for practical purposes we are using good judgment at the school level to apply safe harbor logic, I would like to see this codified in our R&R handbooks. This way, what is described in the handbook will be more properly aligned with our actual district practices; As it stands at this time, I do not believe what I'm told is current district practice aligns with the current iteration of the draft R&R handbook, with respect to "safe harbor" type scenarios.

Perhaps I'm just a stickler, but I like consistency. I think we should have some official and specific provision/clause/language to account for these rare but possible circumstances, and that’s why I've brought this issue up on a number of occasions; Furthermore, I believe that the general consensus at the last School Board meeting was that a "safe harbor" clause would be drafted by Mrs. Waters for the Superintendent and Board to consider and potentially add to the R&R handbook.

I would still like to see that happen.


Jeff Bergosh

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