The Board of Education unanimously approved a healthcare provider for Carroll County Public Schools employees and revisions to policies related to violent incidents and student health.
At its monthly meeting Wednesday night, the Board of Directors approved the renewal of employee health care through Aetna. As the provider of Medicaid, prescription drugs, stop-loss insurance, and Medicare Advantage plans, Aetna’s coverage costs just under $19 million. Superintendent Cynthia McCabe said reducing the price from the provider would result in savings of about $4 million in 2024.
The Medicare plan benefit package and stop-loss insurance will cost about $2.4 million, the Medicare Advantage plan will cost more than $3.3 million, and the prescription drug plan will cost nearly $13 million in 2024.
Benefits are an important employee retention tool, said Marsha Herbert, chair of the Board of Education, and most employees love having Aetna as a provider.
We don’t have the biggest raises, Herbert said, “but they love our health insurance. That’s huge. If we can provide that, that’s a win for us.”
Herbert said she received good health care from Aetna when she was a teacher, and that staff prefer continuity at the health care provider so they can continue to see the same doctor.
“Overall employee satisfaction has been very comfortable and happy with the existing provider,” said Assistant Superintendent of Operations Jonathan O’Neill.
Three revised policies were introduced by the school system’s Director of Student Services, Carl Stricker, and each update was individually approved by unanimous vote.
The updated Threats, Violent Acts, and Prohibited Weapons Policy — which adds definitions for terms like “assault,” “like firearm,” “targeted violence,” and “leakage” — was approved without revision.
A “similar firearm/other gun” is defined in policy revisions as “any weapon other than a firearm, loaded, unloaded, fired or otherwise … such as a BB gun, starter gun, or pellet gun, which is similar to a weapon fiery.”
The proposed language to define similar firearms comes after the Manchester Police Department issued a statement in May warning of the dangers of a traditional high school game played outside of school using realistic-looking water guns. The policy indicates that with the principal’s written approval, resembling weapons may be used at school-sponsored events, such as dramatic productions or marching band performances and JROTC activities.
Also in the revisions, “leakage” is defined as when an individual “intentionally or unintentionally discloses evidence of feelings, thoughts, fantasies, attitudes, or intentions that may indicate an imminent violent act.” The policy now states that all members of the school community must immediately report any leakage or information related to the leak in order to avoid threats of violence to schools.
The school system’s policy on threats, in-school violence, and firearms and weapons is based on the Maryland Model Behavioral Threat Assessment Policy, which was developed as a result of the Safe to Learn Act of 2018, per the agenda item. The proposed updates will align the district’s policy with the Maryland Center for School Safety’s Behavioral Threat Assessment Implementation Guide, an appendix to the state’s threat assessment policy.
The policy was first implemented in December 1995 and has been updated several times, with the most recent revision approved on August 12, 2020.
Amendments have been made to the Health and Wellness Policy, last visited in March 2020, updating the scope of the policy to include staff as well as students, and changing the roles of many staff positions.
While the school nurse has always been responsible for contributing to classroom instruction in hand washing and related topics, the reviews add CPR and overdose response training to the job responsibilities.
School psychologists now work with post-secondary students and now provide psychological assessment services.
The position of Licensed Mental Health Professional was added, counseling students, providing professional development training for staff and “regular crisis intervention and preventative action”.
“I would like to see some sort of language that states that parents are notified of any type of treatment being prescribed or administered by a staff member, and that parents … agree with any type of counseling or treatment effort,” said board member Steve. whistler.
Streaker said that school psychologists are limited to observing the student before cooperating with parents.
“Families are very informed,” Streaker said, “and there’s a lot of progress monitoring that goes with that.”
An additional update changes the descriptions of counseling and psychosocial services to include “program initiatives that support students’ learning in … self-regulation, relationship skills, conflict resolution, executive functioning skills and problem-solving. Services are delivered in a collaborative manner with students’ families and the community.”
The word “student’s” was changed from “school’s” through an amendment proposed by board member Donna Sivigny. The school board unanimously approved the amendment and the amended policy as amended.
“Families don’t belong in schools. Families belong in students, so it was a little vague about what we actually meant there,” said Sevigny.
A “Student Dignity” section was added to the Student Searches and Seizures Policy to clarify that searches must not humiliate students or disrupt instruction more than necessary. When a requester is searched for, a third party is required under the current policy. The third party observer and the student being researched must be of the same gender, and preferably the researcher of the same gender as the student as well. Stricker said the new policy seeks to clarify this requirement by changing the wording of the rule.
Policy revisions also expand the circumstances in which a student may be sought. While a student can currently be searched on suspicion of possession of illegal items, the updated language expands this rule to include any item that violates school policy.
In the event of a drug investigation when students are released from classes, students will be held in class until the search is completed, under the new policy. The previous policy was to end research if students went out into the halls.
The policy was approved unanimously, and a revision of the regulation on police inspection was also proposed.
The police search policy states that employees must cooperate with the police, but they may not conduct a search unless a police officer has a search warrant. School board member Patricia Dorsey said the language could be improved.
“He’s a little conflicted,” Dorsey said. “He means we’ll cooperate, but then he tells us we can’t do the searches.”
“If a search warrant is issued, why do we search? An officer can conduct the search,” legal counsel Edmund O’Melli said.
The language, “(a) A school official may not conduct a search of a student at the request of a police officer unless a warrant is issued,” would be changed to something conveying that, “School officials may not conduct searches as directed by police officers. They shall School officials will cooperate with police officers if they need to start a search,” Stricker said.
Streaker said he will ensure the policy is clearly communicated to principals by School Security Chief Curtis Pearce and School Security Coordinator Brandon Elliott.
School Board meetings are open to the public and are broadcast live on Carroll County Public Schools YouTube channel It can be viewed on the right side of the Board of Education website at the address carrollk12.org/board-of-education/meeting-information, within CETV’s live broadcast. The meetings are also broadcast live throughout the month on Carroll Education Television, Ch. 21.