School board is awash in possible new policies, with several on agenda



In the coming months, the Howard County school board will vote on policies that regulate everything from cellular telephone use in schools to vandalism of school property.

Last week, board members discussed system discipline, students' responsibilities and rights, the student code of conduct and student search-and-seizure policies.

Although the policies don't differ much from current rules and regulations, board Chairman Joshua Kaufman said the topics are among the most important in the system.

"We are changing them at the margins for the most part because our current systems work very well," Kaufman said. "I'm not expecting a huge groundswell [of reaction], but I've been surprised before."

One of the major changes in the student code of conduct is the addition of bullying to a list of punishable offenses. Under the proposed code of conduct, bullying can result in expulsion.

"It reflects our new emphasis on trying to prevent and punish bullying," Kaufman said. "There is bullying in the system, and that's why we have a problem. Is it an epidemic? I don't think so. We just want to reduce it."

The board is scheduled to vote May 11 on policies for student discipline, search and seizure and code of conduct. The board will hold a public hearing on the policies April 27.

A public hearing on students' responsibilities and rights was pushed back to May 23.

State champs again

They came. They conquered -- again.

River Hill High School's Future Business of America chapter has won the state championship for a third consecutive year -- essentially retiring the trophy.

Usually the winning team has to return the traveling trophy to the state's FBLA chapter at the end of the year. But, when a school wins the championship three years in a row -- as did River Hill in the competition held March 31 to April 2 -- the school keeps the trophy.

River Hill has won the state title five out of the past six years.

The three-day competition, at the Clarion Hotel in Hagerstown, attracted more than 700 students from across the state, including 70 from River Hill. Students competed in 50 events, including oral competitions and written tests on business law and accounting.

Sagar Gupta, 18, a senior at River Hill and state president of the Future Business Leaders of America, competed in the future business leader event for River Hill. Gupta described the school's victory in one word: "Humongous."

Black history game

Black history was the name of the game in Howard County last month, when 149 students from eight schools tested their knowledge during the It's Blackademic contest.

Modeled after the It's Academic television show and similar to the Black Saga competition, It's Blackademic tests student teams on facts of black history. Each of the teams, which can be as small as five students or as large as 30, choose a speaker and answer questions on topics ranging from geography to black inventors.

The competition has elementary, middle and high school divisions, and the top four teams in each division are given trophies.

This year's competition was held over two weeks in the Oakland Mills High School cafeteria.

Bryant Woods and Clemens Crossing tied for first place in the elementary school division; Elkridge Landing won the middle school division; and Oakland Mills won at the high school level.

"They [participants] were so excited and very knowledgeable and proud," said Linda Mc- Ewen, lead academic mentor for the Black Student Achievement Program and organizer of the competition. "They really had leadership skills. They are all studying for next year already."

The competition was started in 1997 by Don Wallace, an educator and child advocate in the county.

"It helps the students to understand more about African- American history," McEwen said. "It helps them know where they come from, and for those who are not black it gives them a better understanding of another culture and history."

Board candidates

Seven school board hopefuls introduced themselves to the public Wednesday night at the first candidates forum of the election year, discussing such topics as how money should be spent and the need for charter schools.

Candidates included: Tony Yount, a retired system administrator; Di Zou, a senior at Glenelg High School; Patricia Gordon, a current board member; Joshua Kaufman, current board chairman; Frank Aquino, who ran in 2004; retiring system employee Larry Cohen; and Ellen Flynn Giles, an advocate for students.

Another candidate, Carmen L. Harmon, a former teacher and current stay-at home mother, did not attend the forum.

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