WEST BEND — The West Bend School Board met Monday evening to discuss the purchase of metal detector wands for student searches and updating policies concerning the selection of school materials in curriculum and the library.
At Monday’s meeting the school board discussed the possible purchase of metal detector wands for use during student searches. According to the meeting agenda, the administration was contacted by a board member who asked the district to research purchasing and using portable metal detector wands during student searches when reasonable suspicion exists that the student has an item that breaks school rules, board policies or laws. Examples provided at the meeting were vape pens and possible weapons.
The administration completed preliminary research into the wands, including cost, talked with the West Bend Police Department about how the wands might be best used and examined relevant board policy.
Director of Technology, Libraries, and CTE Tim Harder said that the district is limited with how far staff can go in searching students without a police liaison present.
For instance, it is not clear at the moment, according to the board, what happens if a wand alerts staff to something on a student but the student refuses to comply with a request to reveal the item.
Board member John Donaldson said disciplinary procedures must be in place for students that refuse to cooperate after alerting a metal detector.
Harder recommended that the item be discussed in a future policy meeting to update policy language and possible administrative rules. Administration also recommended that the district work with local police department to develop a training plan and organize a roll-out process for implementation following formal board approval.
Material Selection Policies
Superintendent Jennifer Wimmer updated the board on the review of several policies associated with material selection in curriculum, resources, library books and controversial issues. Wimmer asked for the board’s input before further revisions are undertaken by the policy committee.
There was discussion around the meaning of "appropriate" in terms of profanity and sexual content in standards for resource selection. Board member Melanie Ehrgott mentioned content involving vulgar language, sex and underage drinking and drugs as possible places to set the bar for inappropriateness. Ehrgott suggested tying content standards to standards for student conduct at school.
During the discussion, the subject of removing three specific books from the district came up. Donaldson said that the books “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini, “The 57 Bus” by Dashka Slater and “Norse Mythology” by Neil Gaiman are not appropriate for the age of students who have access to them based on his reading of the current policy.
During public comments, four residents had argued that the books were not appropriate for students based on references to graphic sex acts and language.
“I would say if we’re not following policy to get those books in place, then we need to put them on pause and pull them out until we can further review them, immediately,” said Donaldson.
Ehrgott characterized “The Kite Runner” as pornography based on a selection of the book read at the meeting about a rape scene. She said she doesn’t think the book belongs in any student environment.
“The Kite Runner” and “The 57 Bus” are both on many lists for the most banned books by school libraries in the U.S.
Board member Chad Tamez said that the more important question is how “appropriateness” is defined.
Wimmer said the process for removing books is part of a formal reconsideration process. Wimmer said the policy committee would take the board’s suggestions into mind when working on policy revisions.
Behavioral Health ARPA grant
The board also formally accepted a previously announced grant award from the county through the Washington County Behavioral Health American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant program worth $192,809 that will be distributed over three years.
The grants were developed to support organizations that use evidence-based programs to help address substance abuse and mental health issues in the county.
The money will go to support a new district mental health navigator position that will work directly with families who need support and provide professional guidance to staff, according to Director of Student Services Emily Melstrand.