Rick Owsley, left, and Alan Nichols review proposed changes at Tuesday's Policy Committee meeting. The committee recommended a hate speech policy for inclusion in school handbooks. 

QUINCY — A Quincy Public Schools committee hopes a new policy will be a step toward removing hate speech and actions from the schools.

“The policy alone is not enough to change behavior. We have to communicate it and then follow it,” Superintendent Roy Webb said. “The only way that’s going to change behavior is through the education process.”

The Policy Committee on Tuesday recommended a hate speech policy for inclusion in school handbooks to the School Board for action.

The school district’s Diversity and Inclusion Team developed the policy, with help of district parents, after an incident last year in one of the elementary schools where a student was called an inappropriate name.

“There’s really already language in our handbooks to address it. This adds more emphasis,” said Quincy Junior High School Assistant Principal Rick Owsley, who serves on the policy committee and the diversity and inclusion team.

Under the new policy, QPS will not tolerate words, language or actions that lessen the dignity of any individual, and anyone using offensive or demeaning words or actions must be met with “swift and caring education, learning, re-direction and discipline.”

“It doesn’t matter if you’re joking around, if you’re one race or another. Certain words are not going to be allowed on school property,” Webb said. “We wanted to prioritize this, to make this a point of emphasis.”

Committee member Alan Nichols proposed strengthening some “tentative” language in the policy. The committee agreed in one instance to change “should” to “shall” for mandatory action and added the word “why” to help clarify another sentence.

“Why these words are not allowed in our schools is a valid educational process,” Nichols said. “Some of these words are allowed at home and other gatherings that have nothing to do with public schools.”

The School Board will review the policy at its Nov. 23 meeting, then table it for action in December.

If the School Board adopts the policy in December, it will be effective and included in online versions of the student handbook in January and in the printed handbooks for the start of the 2022-23 year.

Buildings will implement the policy with age-appropriate “discussion on why what you’re doing is harming our entire school environment,” Webb said.

Webb said the district has had some hate speech complaints this year which “to the best of our knowledge” have been resolved, Webb said, and plans do not call for revisiting those incidents in light of the new policy.

Also Tuesday, Webb reviewed the latest, 273-page Policy Reference Education Subscription Service update.

The update included a variety of updates to policies covering students, operational services, School Board, instruction and school administration and a new policy tied to awareness and prevention of child sexual abuse and grooming behavior.

Committee members recommended the School Board approve the changes.

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