VALDOSTA -- Following the New Year, school systems will be held responsible for student behavior outside the traditional learning environment.
The State Board of Education recently amended Rule 160-4-8-.15, which deals with student discipline. State leaders specifically mandated that school systems be responsible for student behavior at bus stops and other off-campus areas when it endangers students or interrupts the educational process.
Both the Valdosta City and Lowndes County boards of education are in the process of developing policies addressing these amendments.
Valdosta City School System Superintendent Sam Allen said overseeing students at the bus stop is basically impossible without placing a paid employee at each location. He said there's just too much that does and can go on while students wait for the bus each morning and make their way home each afternoon.
"To some extent, we have always done things to address these issues when they occur," he added. "We have relocated bus stops from problem areas. We have addressed incidences of fighting. We take complaints very seriously."
Allen said it often takes an entire day to investigate bus stop complaints.
During a recent Valdosta Board of Education meeting, Dr. Neil Meyers, District 5, questioned the rationale behind making school systems responsible for such a matter, which should come under the jurisdiction of the parents.
"I've always interpreted the law that the school's authority starts when the child steps on the grounds of the school bus stop," said Lowndes County School System Superintendent Dr. Steve Smith. "They are there for the purpose of attending school. It is in everyone's best interest to take any action necessary to make students safe at the bus stop."
Smith said the law will back school systems up when they have to intervene. He said it will give them more authority.
"The state is putting more and more of the responsibility of raising kids on schools," he continued. "In many cases, the home has abdicated some of its responsibility in raising the kids. The expectation is that the schools will assume that responsibility. Personally, I don't feel like that's right. I believe it takes a partnership between schools, parents, and the community to raise a child. However, if no one else is going to step up, then we have to."
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