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Orange County Schools discusses device delay and Title IX regulations


Orange County School Board members discuss Title IX regulations and online schooling at a meeting on Monday, Aug. 10, 2020.

The Orange County Board of Education met Monday night to discuss plans for instruction in the coming school year, meal delivery logistics and updates to Title IX regulations.

Remote instruction

The Board voted in July to start the semester with fully remote instruction for the first nine weeks. 

Testing Coordinator Crystal Vaught said while the district is remote, Orange County Schools will continue with its current attendance policy, and students will be marked present so long as they complete daily assignments or check in with their teacher.

"Students cannot be considered absent solely due to not logging in on a remote learning day,” she said.

Deputy Superintendent Kathleen Dawson addressed issues with device distribution to families in Orange County Schools.  

The distribution of 1,700 online learning devices to families has been delayed because deliveries from the device manufacturer have banned in the United States due to accusations of human rights and child labor law violations.

Instead, students in first through third grade will receive a combination of new and older devices. These could either be devices that are in inventory or rentals set to arrive Aug. 12.

In addition, Dawson said 270 mobile hotspots have been ordered from Verizon to support students with low connectivity. Orange County Schools will also be setting up hotspots in secondary parking lots and on yellow buses, and is in the process of expanding tech support for families.

Dawson said these physical hotspots will be an option for students who need to download materials or have a brief conference with their teachers.

"We definitely would not expect that our families would come to these parking lots and be sitting through lessons," she said. 

Director of Exceptional Children Connie Crimmins said students with disabilities will be provided devices as needed, and teletherapy will be available.

On the subject of equity, Chief Equity Officer Dena Keeling discussed preparing staff for conversations about race, which includes teaching them to create space for student voices and help center the voices of students of color.

"We recognize that teachers might be going through their own reflection and might not have all the answers, and students know this," Keeling said. "They want teachers to speak their truth, and move in the direction of culturally relevant teaching."

Meal deliveries

After discussing meal delivery options for the first nine weeks of school, the Board motioned to prepare meals for distribution at six to eight school locations, where families will be able pick up meals for all of their students for multiple days at a time.

This is a change from the summer meal delivery program, which delivered food to 10 distribution locations. The new option was favored due to lower costs, as state transportation funds can no longer be used for this effort.

The majority of Board members said they were supportive of an option in which meals are delivered on all regular bus routes, although it proved to be even more expensive.

The Board plans to reach out to families in the coming week to explore whether different delivery locations would be beneficial in the future. 

Title IX regulations

Chief Human Resources Officer Teresa Cunningham-Brown introduced interim changes to two policies related to the prohibition of discrimination, harassment and bullying, along with the complaint procedure. 

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The changes were intended to ensure compliance with revised Title IX regulations in time for the federal deadline of Aug. 14 while staff review broader action on the six affected policies. The changes reflected the amended definition of sexual harassment and required higher standards of evidence for complaints. 

The new Title IX guidelines, released by the Department of Education in May, define sexual harassment to include sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking as unlawful discrimination on the basis of sex.

Federal guidelines previously defined sexual harassment as "unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature."

Board member Hillary MacKenzie said she has a personal moral issue with the new definition as laid out in the revisions, as she feels it loosens the consequences for sexual offenders, but reluctantly agreed to approve the changes.

“I understand that it's federal law and we could lose federal funding if we don't pass these, so I will vote in favor of them even though I am not indeed in favor of them at all,” MacKenzie said.

The rest of the board agreed, and the motion to approve the interim changes was passed unanimously.

@DTHCityState |