The Carroll County schools' policy against sexual harassment now extends to students, who can be disciplined for "unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature."
The Board of Education unanimously approved the policy yesterday. The system already had such a policy to discipline employees who harassed each other or students. The change means that students also can be punished for such conduct.
"It all comes down to respect for other people, doesn't it?" said board President Carolyn L. Scott.
Discipline for students ranges from a conference to referral for counseling or extended suspension, at the discretion of the principal.
Examples of harassment include threats or demands for dates, unwanted touching, sexual name-calling and derogatory drawings, cartoons or gestures.
The policy reads, "Insisting that behaviors or actions were 'misunderstood' does not excuse or reduce the responsibility for the behavior."
Superintendent R. Edward Shilling said yesterday that school staff will get additional information this fall on laws requiring the reporting of suspected child sexual and physical abuse.
"A good bit has been done," he said. "We are going to look at that process even again, in light of what's happening in Anne Arundel County."
Since April, three teachers in that county have been indicted on charges of child sex abuse involving students. State officials have criticized Arundel administrators and teachers for not reporting suspected cases of abuse earlier and plan a sweep of all counties to inform school staffs of the law.
"It's obvious we want to make sure that never happens in this county," Mr. Shilling said.
Director of Personnel William Rooney said classified staff, such as custodians and cafeteria workers, also will be informed of the law, which requires school, medical and social service workers to report any suspected abuse.
Edwin Davis, director of pupil services, said teachers will receive a handout that describes the characteristics of an abused child, as well as the law for reporting.
He said school staff are to be reminded that they face discipline if they don't report suspected abuse.