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The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –
The Hamilton County School Board approved a new policy for their professional code of conduct at their regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday evening.
The policy was approved with a 5-2 vote. Board members Marco Perez and James Walker voted against the updated policy.
The new code of conduct was first introduced in an August board meeting where it was approved in its first reading. The same members voted against the policy at that time.
East Ridge Elementary School teacher Heather Modrow spoke out against the policy prior to the original vote, saying that the inclusion of teacher’s personal lives in the professional conduct code was unfair.
“I will continue to stand here and use my voice to stand up for what is right. The district is already applying the code of conduct unfairly. If the new language that includes our personal lives is also included and this policy goes through, it will become a witch hunt,” Modrow argued.
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Perez agreed that the updated wording would create an environment where teachers were afraid to express their personal beliefs outside of work.
In Thursday night’s meeting, Perez made a motion to postpone the vote because of wording in the code.
“We live in an environment right now where it’s almost impossible to express something that won’t alienate people or create barriers,” Perez said.
The policy is intended to help build public trust in Hamilton County teachers and staff members. A portion of the new code addresses the way teachers present themselves in the community outside of school.
Modrow argued that the district policy was unnecessary because the state already has a professional code of conduct in place for teachers.
“Additionally, this policy changes language from ‘make a reasonable effort to protect students from conditions harmful to the learning or health and safety’ in the Tennessee code to ‘employees must protect the health and safety and students,” Modrow said.
“In a pandemic, how can you require teachers to protect the health and safety of students when our hands are tied by the state with an opt-out order, Executive 84? What are the legal ramifications for staff if a child becomes seriously ill, are we gonna be sued?” she continued.
In Monday’s agenda meeting, Perez asked board attorney Scott Bennett to elaborate on the differences between the district and state policies. Bennet said the state policy only covered teachers but the district code was expanded to include staff as well.
Representatives from the teacher’s union agree that abiding by various regulations in their personal lives is not an added pressure that teachers should have to face, especially as they are already overloaded with pandemic related protocol.
About the Author: Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career. Most recently, he served as Deputy Directory for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others. He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History. Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com