Inclusion and safety was in the forefront of Charlotte County district officials’ minds when reviewing the Student Code of Conduct for the upcoming school year.

For the first time, sexual orientation, transgender status and gender identity is explicitly covered in the statement of non-discrimination, prohibition of sexual harassment and bullying and harassment prohibited sections.

According to recommendations, JROTC and Drill Team members could be included in the existing firearm ban, unable to bring their firearms or swords on the bus. Executive Director of Student Services Mike Desjardins said this was suggested, because at some point in the year students are at bus stops in the dark, and it would be a judgment call for the bus driver. It would be harder to distinguish a JROTC firearm or firearm look-alike from a potential threat, and safety is always the first priority.

The Code of Student Conduct was discussed with Desjardins and the Charlotte County School Board on Tuesday at their workshop meeting. The changes will be finalized and voted on at a future board meeting.

A committee of parents and students met with district officials March 26 for four hours to offer recommended changes to the 54-page policy.

Desjardins said this is the sixth year he has reviewed the code of conduct, and “by far the best.”

“It was great to see students from different high schools actively participate,” he said.

Other recommendations include if students are permitted to use their headphones on campus, they must keep one earbud out, due to safety concerns. If an announcement was made about a lock-down, or something of that nature, the student would need to hear what was going on.

Aligned with the board policy titled, “Reports of Suspicious Activity and Potential Threats to Schools,” the district added that students, parents, employees, and community members all have a responsibility to report suspicious activity and potential threats. People can report to a school resource officer, local law enforcement, school administrators or staff members, or through the anonymous suspicious activity reporting app FortifyFL.

Under students’ rights and responsibilities, the district included “to follow and abide by all school safety rules and procedures.”

“It highlights the fact that safety and security is everybody’s responsibility,” Desjardins said.

At any point, the district is able to give students a referral for mental health services and/or recommendation for expulsion for involvement in zero-tolerance school-related violent crime.

Desjardins said parents have the right to deny mental health services. He said the vast majority of parents accept the help offered for their kids.

“Very few parents say no,” he said.

There are currently no state guidelines that define what the referrals should be for a particular incident.

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