Student group proposes policies, classes for Douglas County schools

McKenna Harford
mharford@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 5/12/22

Douglas County students envision a number of new initiatives, policy updates and class offerings throughout the district in the next few years.

Student Advisory Group subcommittees presented to …

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Student group proposes policies, classes for Douglas County schools

Posted

Douglas County students envision a number of new initiatives, policy updates and class offerings throughout the district in the next few years.

On May 10, Student Advisory Group subcommittees presented the Douglas County School Board the culmination of a year’s work on eight topics where students identified and proposed improvements.

Suggestions to the board include creating electives focused on mental health and hands-on learning, updating the dress code, outlining a student grievance policy, implementing a Sexual Assault Response Team program, dedicating money to plant trees and developing teacher education on diversity and equity, as well as technological literacy. 

One of the longer presentations detailed a new student grievance policy with processes for reporting complaints against other students, staff and policies, as well as working out resolutions to the complaints and an appeals process. 

Under the proposed policy, complaints would be recorded on a form and filed with the superintendent’s office under the new Compliance Office. Students would be allowed to submit the complaint anonymously.

“We first have an informal conference to try and resolve the complaint without bogging down the system with too many forms,” student Jake Oliver said. “If that doesn’t work, or they don’t feel safe talking to the person, then a formal complaint is filed.”

Following a formal complaint, the staff member responsible for handling the case would help generate solutions, which would be put in a resolution. Staff would also be responsible for preventing retaliation. 

The other policy change proposed by students is to update the district’s dress code to be more clear and consistently enforced across schools. The last time the dress code was updated was in 2002 and currently allows teachers to decide what clothing is disruptive in class. 

A survey of students in three high schools found that students feel the dress code unfairly targets female students and creates uncomfortable interactions between teachers and students.

“We want to make sure there is more uniformity across the district,” student Connor Tarbert said. 

The advisory group recommended a student dress code committee be put together to review policies annually for potential changes or clarifications. 

On the topic of diversity and equity, students asked for workshops on discrimination and responding to it in the classroom for staff at each school, where students could share their experiences and a coordinator would educate on systemic issues. 

For example, data presented by the advisory group found that students of color are more likely to be suspended or expelled and less likely to be enrolled in AP or gifted and talented classes. 

“We don’t learn well when we feel unsafe or uncomfortable,” said student Diya Nair. “We want to educate (teachers and counselors) about the impact of discrimination and lack of education in our community. We want them to see how it affects us as students. We also want teachers to learn how they can help us feel safe and comfortable.”

The other recommendation for teacher development was a class on technical competence to help educators learn about tools that can be adopted for classwork and standardize technilogocal literacy.

In addition to staff education, two future electives were proposed: a class on mental health, studying topics like brain biology, mental illness and coping strategies, and a hands-on learning style class that would provide experiential learning opportunities.

Outside of class, the advisory group also hopes to expand the use of the Sexual Assault Response Team program, which was implemented this year at Rock Canyon High School. The program educates volunteer high schoolers on consent, sexual harrassment and assault with the goal of those students going on to teach underclassmen and middle schoolers about the concepts in a peer-to-peer fashion. 

“Because it’s peers giving the presentation, I think that will reach students better than an adult,” Kara Lyons said.

Evidence for the SART program shows increased knowledge of sexual harrassment, consent, bystander intervention and rejection of victim-blaming after the training is complete.

Lastly, students requested the district dedicate around $15,000 per year to plant trees, specifically quaking Aspens and blue spruce, to help offset the carbon impacts produced by schools. 

Following each presentation, board directors were able to ask questions about the proposals and many of them voiced how impressed they were with the students’ hard work, maturity and passion.

“You guys have put a lot of work into this and it was wonderful to walk around to the committees and hear the conversations going on,” said Director Becky Meyers, who was the new board liaison for the Student Advisory Group this year. “It’s quite an exceptional group.”

Students will continue to finalize details for each proposal, working with the district staff and board to implement the ideas within the next few school years. 

Douglas County School District, douglas county school board, student advisory group, policy, electives, dress code

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