Cleveland Heights-University Heights Board of Education meeting highlights 12-15-2021
DECEMBER 15, 2021, Work Session
- Work session purpose
- December social media threats
- Student walkout concerning sexual misconduct allegations
- COVID-19 concerns
Present were President James Posch, Dan Heintz, Malia Lewis, Jodi Sourini, and Beverly Wright. Ms. Lewis attended virtually, and Ms. Wright arrived five minutes after the consent agenda was approved. Also present were Superintendent Elizabeth Kirby and Treasurer Scott Gainer. The meeting lasted one hour and 15 minutes.
Work session purpose
The purpose of this meeting was to clarify, at a public meeting, issues of health and security pertinent to the schools due to recent events of concern.
After the presentations, the superintendent and board members requested that more information be collected and possible changes in policy be researched.
No specific action was requested or taken.
Ms. Kirby began by reviewing district collaboration with the police, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, and the Ohio Department of Health. She also stressed collaboration with various school and community committees and the value of surveys. These collaborations are important for the problem-solving process necessary to review present policies and deal with new concerns.
December social media threats
Superintendent Kirby reviewed threats that occurred on December 6 and 14, including when they were received, what actions were taken, and when students returned to regular instruction. The threats resulted in school closure. A student has been charged in the December 6 threat. It was determined that the December 14 threat had been intended for a New York state school.
Ms. Kirby emphasized the students’ need for social, emotional learning. ESSER-funded support for additional staff continues to be implemented. Another focus is to continue to improve routines and other administrative constructs like hallway transitions, ID policies, and tardy policies. The district also continues to ask students and families to share information so any problems can be addressed.
The superintendent desires to develop and adopt administrative guidelines that would be in place if metal detectors are implemented. Exploring the decision to use metal detectors begins with collecting feedback from stakeholders (staff, students, parents, law enforcement) and considerations of where, when, and how they would be used.
Board discussion. Ms. Wright reported that the Safety Advisory Committee is undecided about the use of metal detectors. She advised that the committee and board continue to explore the issue. The additional cost of personnel to operate the detectors is one concern.
Ms. Sourini said she had conflicting thoughts regarding installing metal detectors and asked whether they incur a false sense of security and whether unfair expectations might be placed on persons monitoring the detectors.
Mr. Heintz said that metal detectors send a negative message and would present an inaccurate image of our students. Ms. Lewis agreed, but she would like to know whether students would feel safer coming into a building with detectors. Mr. Heintz does not wish to put administrative guidelines in place.
Mr. Posch pointed out that the high school was built to accommodate metal detectors and that the board owes it to the students to have a plan in place. He feels detectors might provide a sense of safety. He would like to see an information campaign, maybe via posters, to educate the students on how they are expected to respond to threats.
Ms. Kirby will begin the process of obtaining feedback on metal detectors. She wants every student to feel safe in the building and be proactive if an event occurs.
Student walkout concerning sexual misconduct allegations
Superintendent Kirby explained that the peaceful Heights High walk-out was held on December 10 to express concerns regarding the district’s handling of allegations of sexual misconduct among students. Students met with high school administrators and teachers before the walkout. She is gathering feedback from students and social workers who were present during the student walk-out. Heights High and district staff will continue to listen to students and plan support sessions.
On December 14, the superintendent met with a team to review current support for students and training for staff designed to eliminate inappropriate interactions between students. A committee composed of community members, parents, students, and district staff and administrators will develop an action plan and propose solutions to mitigate allegations and reports of harassment among CHUH students, especially sex-based harassment.
Board discussion. Mr. Posch asked for a review of polices that are in place regarding harassment. He asked when law enforcement became involved and whether a relationship with a rape crisis center might be needed. Ms. Wright would like the district to develop a relationship with a rape crisis center.
Mr. Heintz and Ms. Sourini asked about the reporting process. Mr. Heintz questioned why a report is not immediately referred to the police. Ms. Sourini asked how a student reports a case, how the student is supported, and what was the policy toward an accused student. She emphasized the need to develop a program curriculum for long-term life skills focused on safe choices and how a student of any sexual persuasion would access help.
Mr. Posch asked the superintendent to discuss the various issues with students and return to the board with their responses.
Disruption of the normal school day due to COVID 19 is a concern. Working with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, the district decides on a case-by-case basis whether to close a classroom or school. Dr. Lombardo presented a district-wide update on COVID numbers.
LWV Observer: Rosemarie Fairman.
Documents for all board meetings can be accessed from the Board of Education webpage: www.chuh.org/BoardofEducation.aspx. Go to “BoardDocs” in the menu; on BoardDocs go to “MEETINGS” in the top menu; click on “Agenda.” Board meetings are livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/CHUHSchools) and recorded for later viewing.