The Charlotte County school district’s bullying and harassment policy now specifically addresses anti-Semitism.
The Charlotte County School Board approved this and several other policy changes Tuesday. These redefined and expanded policies bring the district into accordance with state and federal law, according to School Superintendent Steve Dionisio.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill in May prohibiting anti-Semitic speech in the state’s public schools and universities.
The district already prohibits harassment and discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender and disability, among other protected classes.
The district’s policy defines anti-Semitic harassment as “unwelcome physical, verbal, or nonverbal conduct … based upon an individual’s Jewish heritage and when the conduct has the purpose or effect of interfering with the individual’s work or educational performance; of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working, and/or learning environment; or of interfering with one’s ability to participate in or benefit from a class or an educational program or activity.”
The scope of the policy includes conduct “based upon a certain perception of the Jewish people, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jewish people, rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism directed toward a person, his/her property, or toward Jewish community institutions or religious facilities.”
Other policies the board addressed:
The School Board expanded its definition of hazing. Policy already states the district doesn’t condone it, and no student or staff member should participate in or encourage it.
The former definition of hazing was “pressuring or coercing the student into violating state or federal law, any brutality of a physical nature, such as whipping, beating, branding, or exposure to the elements, or forced consumption of any food, liquor, drug, or other substance.”
The amended policy adds: “… other forced physical activity that could adversely affect the physical health or safety of the student; or any activity that would subject the student to extreme mental stress, such as sleep deprivation, forced exclusion from social contact, forced conduct that could result in extreme embarrassment, or other forced activity that could adversely affect the mental health or dignity of the student.”
However, the policy states, hazing “does not include customary athletic events or other similar contests or competitions or any activity or conduct that furthers a legal and legitimate objective.”
District policy requires that, for grades 9-12, any hazing incident that carries risk of death or injury must be reported to law enforcement.
In accordance with state law, the district broadened its definition of sexual cyberharassment. With more students using apps like Snapchat, policy now prohibits anyone from distributing a sexually explicit image of another student or employee by any electronic means. Previously, the policy was limited to websites.
The revised policy also makes an important clarification: Just because someone willingly sends an image to another person, that does not give the recipient the right to post that image online or send it to someone else.
The board passed a new policy banning drones on school property and at sporting events.
The policy states drones can be operated only at the superintendent’s discretion, but the operator must have a remote pilot certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The rules encompass any property owned, rented or leased by the district, as well as Florida High School Athletic Association events on school property.