Revised Yarmouth student honor code takes effect

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YARMOUTH — A revised version of the Extracurricular Code of Conduct was unanimously approved by the School Committee on Thursday, Sept. 9.

After the first reading of the policy was presented Aug. 26, the Policy Committee met again to discuss language clarifications and suggestions offered by the School Committee.

The second reading was presented Sept. 9 with minor revisions, Superintendent of Schools Judy Paolucci said, to make the code more clear.

“Everyone is pleased with the end result,” she said.

Review of the wording began before a lawsuit was filed against the district in April that accused Yarmouth High School administrators of violating a student’s constitutional rights after they punished her for allegedly breaking the code.

The U.S. District Court case was dropped after a judge suggested it had little merit. But it raised questions about acceptable student behavior, constitutional rights and integrity.

The majority of the work to update the code of conduct was completed by a group of students, parents, administrators and coaches over the summer. It has been revised to emphasize responsibility and accountability over punishment and consequences.

“We worked to consolidate the policy and to make it clear and concise,” Paolucci said.

The updated honor code applies to students in all extracurricular activities, not just members of sports teams, and clears up language surrounding embarrassing behavior, illegal activities that will result in code violations and other policies students should be aware of.

The original code stated “No student shall be involved in any act or activity that might embarrass the community, school, team, coach, or himself/herself.”

The revised code says “Students participating in extracurricular activities are also expected to refrain from illegal activities that demonstrate a serious disregard of the Yarmouth Honor Code Values including but not limited to theft, burglary, assault, vandalism and lewd/indecent acts.”

According to the approved code of conduct, a student facing a first-time offense will face a 14-day suspension from all extracurricular activities, but may return to practices, rehearsals or meetings after seven days without competing or performing official duties for the full two-week period.

A second offense will result in a 28-day suspension; after 14 days the student can return to practices, rehearsals and meetings, but cannot perform or compete in an official manner for 28 days.

A third offense results in a 12-month suspension from all extracurricular activities. Students must meet with a substance abuse counselor or social worker for all offenses.

If a student chooses to self-report, for a first-time offense there will be no restriction from participation, but there will be a meeting with the substance abuse counselor or social worker.

For a self-reported second offense students will be suspended for 14 days, but may return to activities after seven days.

The third offense for a student who self-reports will result in a six-month suspension from activities and a meeting with the substance abuse counselor or social worker.

According to the code, the rationale behind reduced consequences is to encourage personal responsibility, promote communication among students, parents and the school, and to further educate students about the health consequences of alcohol, tobacco and illegal substance use.

Paolucci said while the policy is in place for the current school year, assemblies and parent meetings will be scheduled to communicate the honor code changes.

To read the revised code in its entirety, visit the Yarmouth School Department website.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net

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