Naperville’s District 203 board to continue co-curricular participation policy discussion    

District 203 administration building, exterior, for policy discussion post
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The Naperville School District 203 board of education and administrators are slated to resume a discussion about changes to a series of policies related to co-curricular participation and the extent of disciplinary actions for infractions at its Monday, June 17 meeting.

In recent months, both groups have been hashing over Board Policy 7:240 and a companion document that outlines student discipline. The custom policies and procedures expand on a boilerplate document on co-curricular student conduct from the Illinois Association of School Boards’ Policy Reference Education Subscription Service, or PRESS, platform.

These outline code of conduct rules for participation in activities such as athletics, band and choir groups, various clubs, boards, and councils.

Restorative practices   

At the board’s most recent meeting on Monday, June 3, administrators shed light on the ways the policy refresh is designed to mesh with the district’s broader values.

Language on restorative practices, for instance, has been incorporated to reflect a more formalized, one-time opportunity for students to learn from an infraction in some instances.

Chala Holland, assistant superintendent of administrative services, said most offenders within District 203 have historically not repeated their infraction. This data point has prompted calls for school officials to adopt the restorative practice model for co-curricular participation.

“There’s very few — usually, it’s just a one-time mistake, and they learn from that,” Holland said.

Too ‘one size fits all?’   

During the recent in-depth, wide-ranging discussion of what could be ahead in the revamped co-curricular policy documents for the upcoming 2024-25 school year, several board members weighed in with concerns and questions.

In reviewing the suspension protocols, board member Kristin Fitzgerald said she felt components of the revised policy were “one size fits all” in some scenarios. She pointed to the example of a student attending a party, unaware of such illegal activity as drinking taking place.

“It seems like, in this situation, by the way that we have equalized penalties, they’re in a situation where they are punished the same, either way, whether they do the right actions or whether they don’t — and, whether they know these things are going on at this individual event, or whether they don’t,” Fitzgerald said.

Holland, however, countered that there are other larger factors in place that could result in greater penalties for students engaged in unlawful behavior. A student arrested for a driving under the influence offense, for instance, would inherently miss greater portions of co-curricular activity since law enforcement was involved.

Superintendent Dan Bridges also gave his take on scenarios such as parties and the importance of having clear policies in place.

“Ignorance is not an excuse for the law. Attendance at an underage party, where alcohol is being served, is against the law,” Bridges said. “I want to make sure we have a policy that doesn’t paint us into a corner or cause problems for us. We will work on some language and definitely get legal feedback.”

Robust committee feedback process on policy   

Holland said the draft documents presented to the board for approval are the net result of extensive committee meetings that involved school personnel, administrators, coaches, student athletes and parents.

“We listened to the feedback provided, recognizing that this is a complicated matter and worked with our legal counsel to come up with an additional draft to address some of the concerns that were raised,” Holland said.

This year’s committee representatives, Holland said, included a cross-section of the District 203 school community.

“We try to have a representative group, just to have different insights,” she said. “We want the feedback of students who have been impacted, and we also want the feedback of students who may or may not know about it as well, to get pretty clear and transparent feedback.”

The District 203 board could act on the revised policy at the upcoming meeting on June 17. Administrators are seeking board approval early this summer in anticipation of printing student handbooks for the new school year in August.

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