Howard County's school system should have a tougher human relations policy that could lead to reprimand, suspension or termination of students or staff members who engage in insensitive or degrading behavior toward others, a study committee says.
The revised policy, proposed by a 13-member task force that included citizens and school employees, will be presented to the Board of Education today. A public hearing is tentatively set for Oct. 11, and the board is scheduled to act on the measure Oct. 25.
The strongly worded revision of a 1980 human relations policy says the board "will not tolerate nor condone any act of bias, discrimination, insensitivity or disrespect toward any person due to their age, creed, ethnic background, mental and physical development, race, gender, job classification, socio-economic status or special needs."
Nor, the proposed policy adds, will the system tolerate "verbal and non-verbal behaviors which offend or degrade students or staff or communicate messages which impair their ability to achieve to the maximum of their academic or professional potential."
The suggested policy says principals and administration officials should hold conferences to "inform and enlighten" people who engage in insensitive behavior, which will be considered "misconduct." Violators could be subject to a written reprimand, suspension or termination.
Superintendent Michael E. Hickey said he was concerned that "there seems to be evidence of growing indifference and insensitivity to others in the society at large and on occasion in the school system. There have been incidents and exchanges between students and [between] staff members and students that have reflected racial, religious and ethnic insensitivity."
The policy also calls for giving teachers instructional materials and curricula to portray the history, culture and contributions of various ethnic groups in a "balanced and fair manner" and asks teachers to help "all students in establishing an identity with their own ethnic group as well as with the total society."
It also would require all school system committees to reflect community diversity and strive to achieve "multiethnic and gender equity."