Hart district discusses results of federal program monitoring

The William S. Hart Union High School District office
The William S. Hart Union High School District office

Federal officials asked the William S. Hart Union High School District to update policies for suicide prevention, tracking and compliance, and other student privacy areas identified in the notification of findings from a recent federal monitoring program.

The district was selected at random to be part of the yearlong federal review, which all districts must take part in periodically.

District staff reported back to the board during the Sept. 2 Hart district governing board meeting, with a handful of policy revisions aimed at addressing the compliance requirements from the federal government, which included policies regarding the district’s compliance with immigration officers, English-learner accountability and suicide prevention. The items are expected to be discussed again at Wednesday’s meeting. 

“When you’ve got a kid who’s on the verge of suicide, you’ve got to have some tools, and you’ve got to know what to do, and you’ve got to know what not to say,” said board President Linda Storli.

Assistant Superintendent Kathy Hunter noted that some of the training, mentioning bullying and suicide prevention as examples, was already a part of training for all faculty that’s required before they can work at a school site.  

“We had very few findings come as a result of the monitoring, but we are obviously needing to move forward and correct what those findings were,” said Hunter. 

District staff also noted Monday that much of what was being discussed by the federal report had been part of the teacher and staff training for years, but needed to be codified, according to Jan Daisher, director of special programs, which includes all state and federal categorical programs. This was usually an ongoing process, she said, as the guidelines are subject to change each year.  

“I think that’s really the point — it’s always ongoing,” Daisher said in an interview Monday. “We’re constantly trying to improve, make sure that our programs are the best services we can provide for our students, so ongoing work is the nature of what we do anyways.”

Policy updates

The policies mentioned during the September virtual board meeting included: 

“The policies and procedures addressing suicide prevention, intervention and postvention were developed in consultation with the school and community stakeholders, school-employed mental health professionals and suicide prevention experts,” according to Hunter, “and also it talks about the specific steps we take for intervention.”

The policy added to the district’s language noted a number of actions the district should take in the event of a student trying to take his or her own life: “immediately secure medical treatment/mental health treatment as necessary”; notify law enforcement and other appropriate first responders; keep the student under constant supervision; notify parents or guardians; and remove other students from the immediate area as soon as possible for safety.

“No outsiders, which would include immigration enforcement officers, shall enter or remain on school grounds … without having registered with the principal or designee,” according to the new language in the district’s updated policy. There are exigent circumstances and certain documentation that must exist, per federal law, for entry onto a campus, Hunter noted.

The student and family privacy rights language was updated to include language calling for the training of any Hart district personnel who might handle sensitive information with respect to immigration status, as well as a written policy for how the district gathers and handles sensitive information from students.

Another policy update stated if the district decides to release any directory information, it must provide a notice to those in the directory, and that the district won’t release any information regarding immigration status, except where federally required.

Hart district officials are also not allowed to inquire as to a student’s immigration status, or the status of their parents and guardians, nor can the district require students to present such documents that would indicate that status for that student’s enrollment.

The Hart district shall adopt policies that prohibit discrimination, harassment, intimidation and bullying on the basis of a student’s actual or perceived nationality, ethnicity or immigration status, according to another update. The notice also must be posted in a second language if at least 50% of students in a school identify a language other than English as their primary language.

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