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BOE OKs update to sexual harassment policy

COVINGTON - The Newton County Board of Education approved a request by the Newton County School System to update its sexual harassment policy.

During Tuesday's meeting, board members unanimously approved a recommendation from NCSS Superintendent Steven Whatley that will expand the policy, which was last updated in 1999. The board approved Whatley's original proposal, as the school system did not receive any public feedback online or otherwise.

The request came after a visit from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in August that asked the board to evaluate and update 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.

The new sexual harassment policy expands what was once four paragraphs to about four pages.

The new policy applies to all employees in the school system at its facilities and at school-related events; it defines sexual harassment and associated terms and gives guidelines who feel the need to report an incident.

"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.

It also details the investigation process, which starts with the complaint being filed; afterward, the respondent will be notified and both the respondent and complainant will be able to provide evidence and be interviewed to an investigator. The investigator also will interview witnesses and review any documentation. After the investigation, both the complainant and respondent will be notified of any findings and disciplinary action taken.

The new policy states that those who violate the policy could be terminated or have other disciplinary actions taken on them; it also says that punishment, including termination, is promised to those supervisors who do not respond to filed complaints and prohibits retaliation from other employees for someone reporting incidents or assisting in the investigation.

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