Petition Against Proposed Derry Township School Board Policy No. 824 Until Changes Are Made
UPDATE: Due to the strong support of students, parents, and our community, the Derry Township School Board has postponed a vote on this proposed policy to late June so that our community has had a chance to fully voice their concerns and propose changes to the policy. In May, student leaders met with the administration and proposed specific changes that we believe will make the policy realistic and much more suitable for our students and teachers. This revised language will be put up for 30 day review following the School Board meeting on May 23.
Now is the most important part. We encourage you to fully read the revised policy and submit your suggestions and feedback directly to the school district at bit.ly/DTSDpolicy.
The Derry Township School Board is considering a policy that could change the way students and teachers are allowed to interact. Proposed Policy No. 824, "Maintaining Professional Adult/Student Boundaries," was ultimately intended to protect students, but the policy being proposed currently would have damaging and permanent effects on our education system. This petition asserts that we as students, teachers, parents, and a community strongly oppose the current wording of the policy and will not support it until numerous changes are made in the best interest of those to whom it pertains.
Within Hershey High School there is currently a group of class officers, student council members, and other student leaders working to change the policy. In a student-led effort, the group has successfully postpone a vote on the matter, and is considering input from all parties before they propose to the board a list of revisions.
Proposed Policy No. 824 (read here) has several fundamental problems, specifically regarding social interactions between students and teachers. In an attempt to protect students from any potential harm or abuse from teachers, the current version of the draft policy overcompensates and would actually create harmful barriers in many areas of communication, learning, and interacting at a time when we cannot afford it.
The policy essentially outlines a list of behaviors that would become prohibited for school district faculty at all DTSD schools, ranging from obvious and already illegal behaviors, such as sexual contact with students, to even disclosing personal or family matters with a student or class. This policy would be effective if robots rather than teachers were instructing students, but in reality, personal connections and relationships will always be a valuable tool that helps teachers to convey difficult concepts and deliver valuable advice to help guide students in their educational journey.
In addition, one provision of the proposed policy (Social Interactions - 16) states that students who bring up “personal or family” concerns be immediately referred to the guidance office to speak with a counselor instead of a teacher. However, students that engage in personal discussions with teachers build long-lasting relationships that cultivate an open and friendly learning environment. Katie, a recent HHS alumni, stated, “Forming relationships with my teachers who acted as role models and a support system for me was such a huge part of my high school experience.” By eliminating the ability for students to talk about their personal lives with teachers, we are hindering a necessary social and learning experience for all students.
Even if the policy is good-natured in its intent, its overbroad language would create a culture of paranoia and fear where teachers would not risk personal interaction for fear of discipline or termination. Our school district does not need something that tears our community apart, but rather for barriers to broken, and for our community to come together.
As a community, we can let our voices be heard by taking a stand.
- First, sign this petition to support the students working to modify Policy 824. Currently, a group of dedicated students representing the student body, teachers, and the community is working to propose necessary changes to the policy.
- Second, share your feedback on the policy with the School Board through this link so that our community agrees on changes that benefit us all. Also, come show your support at the next School Board meeting on Monday, May 9 at 7 p.m. in the Derry Township School District Office at 30 East Granada Avenue, Hershey. Be there in person to voice your concerns to the School Board about how this policy can be modified.
- Third, spread the word and share this effort with others to help us unite as a community on how to address this matter.
This is the chance to make a change in our community, and to show that when we work together -- students, parents, and our community can effect change on the issues that matter most to us.