Basehor-Linwood district strikes limitations from memorial policy
Board member Coleman resigns because of move
After a proposed Basehor-Linwood school policy on memorials came under fire last month, the USD 458 school board on Monday approved a version of the policy that would not set limits on student publications or the use of school property for memorial services outside of school hours.
Before the board approved the policy, 6-0, superintendent David Howard said during Monday’s school board meeting at Linwood Elementary School that the changes were recommended by the district's attorney. Two groups said last month that the policy as then written would have violated students’ right to free speech.
School board member Richard Zamora, who is also a practicing attorney, gave the policy his blessing as well.
“I think it does away with the First Amendment issues that were presented at the last meeting,” Zamora said.
Last month, representatives of the Kansas Scholastic Press Association of Lawrence and the Student Press Law Center of Arlington, Va., said the policy’s provision discouraging pages memorializing deceased students or staff would violate a state law that prohibits schools from controlling the content of student publications. An attorney representing the KSPA also said another portion of the policy — discouraging memorial services on school property outside of school hours — violated the First Amendment.
The version of the policy approved Monday was stripped of those limitations. The approved policy still prohibits memorial services or funerals on school property during school hours and prohibits the leaving of any items on school property as memorials to deceased students or staff. It also calls for the district to display a flower bouquet at each year’s Basehor-Linwood High School graduation ceremony “in memory of all deceased classmates who were a part of this graduating class.”
Also during Monday’s school board meeting:
• Howard announced that member Wynne Coleman had resigned from the school board because of a job-related move to New Mexico. The resignation leaves the board with a vacancy in its Position No. 4, which represents all of the Basehor-Linwood district north of Parallel Road. Coleman was absent from the meeting Monday.
Howard said it would be up to the board to appoint a new member to serve the rest of Coleman’s term, which runs until April 2013. The board will first need to approve a public notice of the vacancy, likely at its December meeting, he said.
The board could ask anyone interested in the position to appear at its January meeting, Howard said, to state their case for why they should be appointed. He reminded the board members that all discussion about the appointment would need to take place during open session, because it concerns an elected position.
• The mother of a Linwood Elementary third-grader spoke to the board to request that the district hire a full-time school nurse for LES.
The mother, Shannon Sewell, said her 8-year-old son Payne hurt his hand during physical education class at LES several weeks ago on a day when there was no nurse in the building. The school did not notify her about the injury, she said, and a staff member sent him back to class with an icepack. When she took her son to a doctor after school, they discovered he'd broken a bone in his hand, she said.
The doctor said that if Payne had come in sooner after the injury, it may have been treated without the use of a cast. But he did have to wear a cast afterwards, and Sewell said she'd had to write out her son’s homework for him over the past few weeks.
“I send him to school. It's supposed to be safe,” Sewell said. “My kid got hurt, and I wasn't notified.”
The district has a nurse who splits time between LES and Glenwood Ridge Elementary, Howard said after the meeting. She spends three days at LES each week.
Howard said the school probably should have called Sewell to let her know her son was hurt.
“We could have probably handled it differently,” Howard said.
School board president Dayna Miller told Sewell would discuss the issue in the future.
• BLHS counselor CR Goodin made a presentation to the board about possible curriculum changes and new courses, including an English course concerning graphic novels and an upper-level health class.
• BLHS principal Sherry Reeves told the board about two proposed school trips to take place in the spring: a weekend trip to Memphis, Tenn., for choir students and a 10-day trip to Europe for French and Spanish students. Students would be raising funds to pay for both trips, Reeves said.
• The board voted, 6-0, to withdraw the district from the city of Basehor's Neighborhood Revitalization Programs, which provide property tax abatements for new residential, commercial and industrial properties in certain parts of the city. Existing properties subject to the NRP will still receive the abatement on their USD 458 property taxes, but future properties will not.
Howard said he was concerned about the district’s property tax revenues after the district's total property valuation decreased in 2010.
• After a 20-minute executive session regarding non-elected personnel, the board approved, 6-0, the termination of Ashley Ware as a food service worker at BLHS.
• The board approved, 6-0, the resignations of Coleman and of Shelly Schoepflin, building technology coordinator for Basehor Intermediate and Elementary schools. It also approved, 6-0, the retirement of Linda Vaughn, a custodian at Glenwood Ridge Elementary School.
• And the board approved, 6-0, a new policy for the district’s paid annuity plan for employees.