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NCSS to update sexual harrassment policy

COVINGTON - Stemming from requests by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools during its review of the school system, the Newton County School System has begun to evaluate some of its policies.

"The school district is in the process of engaging in a systematic audit of existing board policies to eliminate redundancy of state statutes and state board rules and review necessary policies to ensure intent meets implementation," said Dennis Carpenter, associate superintendent for Human Resources at NCSS.

One of the first policies up for review is the system's sexual harassment policy.

What was originally four paragraphs and last updated in January 1999 is expected to become about four pages with the changes and new additions.

The proposed policy, which was adopted by the board in April 1994, now defines various aspects of sexual harassment and gives guidelines to those who wish to report an incident and the investigation process, as recommended by NCSS Superintendent Steven Whatley to the Newton County Board of Education during its October meeting.

"Anyone who believes that he/she has experienced or witnessed sexual harassment or related retaliation should promptly report such behavior to their immediate supervisor or the Associate Superintendent for Human Resources," the new policy reads.

The policy, which applies to all employees in the school system at its facilities and at related events, specifically states that those who violate the policy could be terminated or be affected by other disciplinary actions, whereas the old policy simply said the superintendent or a designee would investigate a complaint.

According to the policy, after a complaint is filed, the investigation process will begin; the respondent will be notified and both the respondent and complainant will be able to provide proof to the investigator. The investigator also will interview witnesses and review any documentation before both the complainant and respondent will be notified of any findings and disciplinary action taken.

The new policy also provides punishment, including termination, for supervisors who do not respond to filed complaints. It also prohibits retaliation from other employees for someone reporting incidents or assisting in the investigation.

The policy is available for review and public comment on the school system's Web site, www.newtoncountyschools.org, under the "Community Feedback" tab.

The board is expected to vote on the proposed policy during its Tuesday meeting, scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in the board room at the Newton County Board of Education building, which is located at 2109 Newton Drive N.E. in Covington.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.