New sexual harassment policy approved

A new sexual harassment policy has been approved by the local School Board on second reading. The policy put more substance into its definition of what constitutes sexual harassment, and what steps the school administration can take in situations where such behavior occurs.

While discussing the policy on Aug. 21, School Board President John Hischer thanked the students who were apart of the process formulating the new rules.

“They really led the way in this and really, a lot of great input into it,” Hischer said, adding he thinks the policy is a “good step forward.”

The new policy was approved on second reading unanimously.

School Board talks drug testing policy

Skagway’s School Board held a preliminary discussion over a drug testing policy for school activities at its regular meeting on Aug. 21.

School Board President John Hischer introduced the topic as a way to “get a sense” on what the board thinks about the topic.

“My initial knee-jerk reaction is ‘why,’ but then I think of our war on drugs, it fits right in perfectly,” Board Member Darren Belisle said. “It shows the kids we’re serious about it.”

Belisle added he thinks the policy should apply to both teachers and students, though he acknowledged that would be a whole other “can of worms.”

“If we are holding our kids accountable to that level, everybody in the building should be,” Belisle said.

Board Member Jaime Bricker pointed out the divide between the legality of marijuana at the state and federal levels.

“It’s just a lot more accessible I think, because people are so much more casual about it,” Bricker said. “And I’m not just talking about marijuana either. The marijuana is more casually and legally available in the State of Alaska, and then you’ve got this opioid crisis that’s a national epidemic.”

While she agreed with Belisle’s opinion that everyone should be subject to the tests, Bricker said she didn’t see a clear “yes” or “no” on the issue.

“I personally don’t think that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” Board Member Denise Sager said.

“I don’t think the teachers really have anything to do with this.”

Sager brought up the current punishment for students caught holding or using with controlled substances, which is a 30-day ban on participating in any activities with a 5-10 day suspension from practice.

“I always think about these things and I think, should they be suspended or should they run a bunch?” Sager asked. She said it would be better for the students to still be involved in activities, rather than being away from supervision and potentially around drugs.

“I wouldn’t want to see a kid get kicked off of a team and then they have nothing, so they start doing more things that are detrimental to themselves,” Sager said.

The 5-10 days suspension from practice is a standard enforced by the Alaska School Activities Association, but the 30-day ban is simply part of the Skagway School’s policy.

Belisle said when he was in high school, students were automatically kicked off sports teams for smoking or drinking; the threat of that alone made students stay between the lines, Belisle said.

“Because they’re basically there because they love the sport, they want to be there,” Belisle said. “Here, they’re [students] in so many different things, it could be they’re off DDF, they’re off sports…it’s not just one thing they are off of.”

One of the benefits of a drug testing policy is that it allows for early intervention, Hischer said, so any policy regarding drug testing would need to include steps for helping students as well.

Random drug testing does offer students a “built-in” excuse to refuse drugs and alcohol, he added.

Cost of facilitating drug tests was raised as a potential issue, but Superintendent Josh Coughran said expenses would not be great for every student athlete to be tested over the course of the school year.

In the Sitka School District, Coughran said five percent of eligible athletes are selected for testing every week.

“If we pulled say three kids each week, and we did it for the entire start of cross country practice through the end of track state, it would cost us approximately $750,” Coughran said.

The board moved on from the discussion, with Hischer saying he’d like to see the topic talked more at the board’s Policy Committee, and invite students, teachers and parents for input.

Skagway makes top marks in 2018 Peaks Assessment

Alaska’s Department of Education and Early Development released the results of the 2018 PEAKS assessment in the first week of September, with Skagway ranking at the top in the English, math and science categories.

In the English Language arts, Skagway was scored with 87.10 percent of students proficient or advanced in the subject. Runners up were Haines in second with 63.28 percent, and Petersburg with 60.55 percent. In mathematics Skagway also was ranked number one at 83.61 percent proficient, with UnAlaska coming in next at 56.61 percent and Haines at 54.69 percent.

Lastly, in science Skagway scored with 88 percent of students proficient, with Haines coming in next at 71.43 percent and Petersburg at 70.41 percent.

“This accomplishment would not have been possible without the incredible talents of our dynamic and engaging staff, our extremely supportive municipality and community, and the visionary leadership of our school board,” Superintendent Josh Coughran wrote in an email. “Skagway School District has become synonymous with academic excellence and I count myself lucky to work with so many great teachers in an community that values education.”