Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hernando County School Board revisits student conduct code

BROOKSVILLE — Got an iPod in school? Be prepared to hand it over for a possible search.

Vandalize school property within a month of graduation? Brace yourself to sit out your class's commencement ceremony.

Commit an act of bullying or sexual harassment? Be ready to sit through prevention sessions.

These are some of the realities spelled out in recommended revisions to the Hernando County School District's student code of conduct.

As technology marches on, students find new ways to get in trouble, and the district is trying to come up with constructive ways to discipline kids, said Jim Knight, director of student services.

A committee of administrators, teachers and a parent, with help from the School Board attorney, is recommending changes, additions and clarifications to the ever-evolving student rule book. The School Board will consider the recommendations at a 2 p.m. workshop Tuesday.

Among the noteworthy edits:

• The code would explicitly state that school officials have a right to search cell phones and other electronic devices if there is "reasonable suspicion" that a search would reveal a violation of the code, such as cheating or sending obscene text messages or photos.

The code until now has given staffers the right to confiscate the devices. But recent court cases prompted School Board attorney Paul Carland to endorse the more specific language, making the gadgets fair game for searches, just like a student's locker, pockets or vehicle, Knight said.

"As long as parents know in advance that we have the right to search, it's a legal search," Knight said.

• The ubiquitous iPod would be added to the list of prohibited electronic devices, joining personal digital assistants, MP3 players, pagers, and other e-mail and messaging devices other than cell phones.

• What is known as sexting — the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photos via cell phones — had already been added as a punishable offense. But the new code would clearly state that school officials will call police if an image sent by cell phone or other device contains nude images of children or adults.

• Prevention classes would be required in some cases of disciplinary action.

For example, students found guilty of a first offense of sexual harassment would be required to take a course on the subject, in addition to up to three days of out-of-school suspension. Students guilty of a first offense of bullying would have to attend a course on that subject, along with five days of out-of-school suspension. Participation in a mentoring program has also been added as a possible consequence.

The goal is to keep kids in school by cutting the number of suspension days and offering more productive disciplinary action instead, Knight said.

"We're trying to teach what is acceptable behavior vs. what is unacceptable," he said. "The school system is having to go back to the golden rule, and we have to teach standards."

• High school seniors found guilty of "pranks" or "vandalism" that result in out-of-school suspension within the last 30 days of the school year may be barred from graduation ceremonies, a decision that can be left to the school administrator. That adds more specific language to the current code, which simply states that "serious offenses" within the last month of school could result in sitting out commencement.

Knight acknowledged that the controversy that erupted near the end of last school year at Hernando High School played a role in the clarification. Two groups of students, many of them seniors, came onto campus over the weekend. One group committed mostly benign pranks such as stacking desks and putting grease on doorknobs; the other sprayed graffiti and caused other damage on the campus.

Principal Ken Pritz forbade all of the seniors from participating in commencement, but the students appealed to then-superintendent Wayne Alexander, who allowed the students guilty of the lesser offenses to participate in graduation, though other sanctions stood.

"It was a learning experience," Knight said.

While the revised code explicitly states that the school-based administrator has the power to make that decision, the superintendent could still override it.

The district beefed up its bullying and harassment policy in 2008 with guidance from the state, making definitions of those offenses clearer. The latest version of the student code would include minor changes to mirror exactly what the state recommended, Knight said.

But more changes in that area are on the way, superintendent Bryan Blavatt said.

Some parents are still complaining lately that school officials aren't addressing bullying complaints soon enough, if at all. Blavatt said the process would improve response time and communication with upset parents.

"We're going to do better on that," he said.

Reporter Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or

Hernando County School Board revisits student conduct code 05/01/10 [Last modified: Saturday, May 1, 2010 11:43am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Long before Trump hired (and fired) him, Steve Bannon was making deals and kindling political fires in Florida


    With Steve Bannon leaving the White House soon, we're re-posting this Leary-Smith look at Bannon's significant, if mysterious, Florida ties.

    Steve Bannon’s voter registration from August 2016 shows he moved from Miami to Nokomis in Sarasota County.
  2. Rick Baker won't recuse himself from city business with his current boss Bill Edwards


    ST. PETERSBURG — If Rick Baker is elected mayor, he said he will not recuse himself from any city business involving his current boss, businessman Bill Edwards.

    Rick Baker and Bill Edwards listen to NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson during a press conference at the Mahaffey Theater in 2013 announcing that Edwards was the team's new owner. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]

  3. Spooky Empire brings Spooky Day in the Parks to Disney World


    Foolish mortals, evil queens and hook-handed pirates finally get their own day this year at Walt Disney World.

    Spooky Day in the Parks comes to Disney World Sept. 22-24.
  4. New York Times: Trump tells aides he has decide to remove Steve Bannon


    President Donald Trump has told senior aides that he has decided to remove Stephen Bannon, the embattled White House chief strategist who helped Trump win the 2016 election, the New York Times reports, citing two administration officials briefed on the discussion.

    White House chief strategist Steve Bannon steps off Air Force One as he arrives Sunday at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. Bannon was with President Donald Trump on his return trip from Florida. [Alex Brandon | Associated Press]
  5. The weeks' most compelling photos from Tampa Bay and Florida

    Human Interest

    Florida photos of the week for August 11 - August 18: Beach family yoga, Confederate symbols as flashpoints, American Idol winners and hopefuls, Fetish Con, the second oldest survivor of the Pearl Harbor attack turns 104, an armada of rubber ducks, and more.

    Jayden Sheene, 8, left, and Zoey Sheene, 6, rest atop at the arms and legs of their mother, Shelby Sheene, 27, of Holiday, while participating in a Beach Family Yoga gathering on Tuesday (8/15/17) at the Dunedin Causeway. The donation-based classes, hosted each Tuesday (10am), near the Sail Honeymoon rentals, were organized by area moms who wanted to practice yoga while providing an opportunity bond with their children through the spiritual and physical contact of the practice, which has its roots in ancient India. Yoga uses breathing techniques, poses and meditation to help improve health and happiness. (DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times)