Board wants to ensure evenhanded discipline across district – Coastal Observer


Board wants to ensure evenhanded discipline across district

The Georgetown County School Board is poring over the district’s discipline policies to suggest updates, and to make sure the policies are being enforced consistently in all schools.

Several board members met with a committee of district officials to review the policies, which were presented as a “code of conduct” this week. 

Chairman Bill Gaskins said the board wants to make sure the policy is consistent and equitable across all schools and students, and is carried out.

“That’s the thing that we heard from listening to teachers that it’s not consistent across the district and that’s what we hope to be able to put in place and the board will hold [district officials] accountable to make it happen,” Gaskins said.

The district has been criticized by the county chapter of the NAACP for what officials perceive as different standards of discipline in Waccamaw Neck schools.

Chapter vice president Marvin Neal called out the district for the punishment of Waccamaw High School students for acts of vandalism that occurred on May 21 as part of a senior prank. In addition to putting balloons and streamers in the cafeteria and front office, students sprayed cooking oil in the gym lobby and spray painted Class of 2023 on a rooftop HVAC unit.

Four students were given in-school suspension: two for the spray paint and two for driving vehicles on the track.

Neal compared the discipline at the to the multiple out-of-school suspensions of a Black student

at Waccamaw Middle School, including one for using her phone to film another student vandalizing a teacher’s car and another after an incident in which some of the student’s hair was pulled out. Some of her suspensions were overturned.

Neal called it “bias.”

Neither the race nor the gender of the high school students was included in reports of the high school incident.

“When will someone sitting where you are look at that child and call that parent and call that child,” Neal asked the board members. “I think they deserve an apology for what happened there. That has not happened yet.” 

Board Member Robert Cox, who holds an at-large seat, was concerned that the punishments for vandalism in the policy varies based on the cost of the damage.

“I don’t think there needs to be a dollar amount. Vandalism is vandalism,” Cox said. “If a child tears our schools up, tears our school buses up, there shouldn’t be a dollar amount put on school property.”

He also thinks the option of a five- to 10-day suspension as punishment is not enough.

“To me vandalism should have severe consequences for children that want to tear school property up,” Cox said. “I think a five-day suspension is just a slap on the hand. … Let’s get a little tougher on this.”

Board Member Scott DuBose wants the offenses of cheating/plagiarism and forgery moved from level one, the lowest, to either level two or level three, the highest.

“They seem much more serious than cutting classes,” DuBose said, which is also a level one offense.

Bethany Giles, assistant superintendent for academics and student services who made the discipline presentation to the board, said the levels are based on the type of misconduct: one is behavioral; two, disruptive; and three, criminal.

The classifications of offenses are based on state regulations, Giles added.

Punishments range from verbal and written warnings, parent/teacher conferences, detentions or suspensions; to alternative education placement; to expulsion.

Giles said historically, “punitive and exclusionary” forms of discipline have been the norm, but not always the best option.

“It’s not always necessarily effective in isolation,” she added. “The goal of this code of conduct is to reestablish consistency as well as fairness in our practices and procedures.”

The next steps for the district will include training administrators at a workshop in July; sharing the discipline code with parents, students and school staff; and conducting professional development sessions in restorative practices and positive behavior.

“We acknowledge that restoring and modifying students’ behavior may include changing classroom management strategies as well as expectations,” Giles said. “In other words, what does it look like to make sure that we’re helping our teachers be successful in the classroom.”

Board Member Patti Hammel urged everyone to remember that the policies deal with children.

“I think we really have to look at [setting] these expectations for students, and parents have to know those expectations. But we also have to set those expectations for teachers, for any other person that touches the life of a child in our schools,” Hammel said. “I really think that’s a serious, serious conversation to have. You can have all the discipline in the world, or consequences … that isn’t going to change the behavior unless we all have the same expectations, we all have the same conversations.”



Georgetown County Board of Education: First and third Tuesdays, 5:30 p.m., Beck Education Center. For details, go to Georgetown County Council: Second and fourth Tuesdays, 5:30 p.m., Council Chambers, 129 Screven St., Georgetown. For details, go to Pawleys Island Town Council: Second Mondays, 5 p.m. Town Hall, 323 Myrtle Ave. For details, go to   , .