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Stricter Bus Rules To Be Added To Duval Schools’ Code of Conduct



This story has been updated.

Duval School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said the rules governing kids’ behavior on school buses should be stricter.


He’s recommending the students have bus-riding privileges revoked for a month after one fight and out-of-school suspension with possible permanent removal for a second bus fight for a second fight..

“Riding the bus is a privilege,” Vitti said. “When there is horseplay on the bus, you are not only possibly negatively impacting your safety, but the safety of everyone on the bus including the bus driver and it’s just completely unacceptable.”

Students currently are punished with in-school suspension for a first offense, but still allowed to ride the bus. Their riding privileges are revoked after a second bus fight.

He said each fight will be looked at individually to determine if one or both students participated.

Other proposed tweaks to the student code of conduct will likely send more students to alternatives-to-out-of-school suspension sites. That’s where violators go instead of staying home to serve an out-of-school suspension.

At the same time, some board members think cutting a site would free up dollars for other programs.

Afterrecommended city-funding cuts, the district was planning to operate with four ATOSS sites instead of five next year, but Chair Ashley Smith Juarez is now recommending to cut another one, which was planned for the Beaches area.

“It is our obligation to responsibly and efficiently use our dollars,” Juarez said.

An oversight committee decided last month, the majority of city dollars earmarked for an alternative to out-of-school suspension program will now be used for programs to keep kids out of jail. The initiative, Jax Journey, is to help stop crime in Jacksonville.

The committee's chair, W.C. Gentry, said in the May meeting the cuts were because too few students were being sent to ATOSS. Last year there were 54 days when no students were assigned to a center.

Smith Juarez said if the board approves her idea to cut a site, the district would monitor attendance.

“Were those three sites to be overcrowded, we will open an additional site, but were those three sites to be appropriately and adequately utilized, then the resources will be deployed in an alternative way,”Juarez said.

The city is fully funding one of the three remaining ATOSS sites. If too few kids use it, the district will have to return dollars to the city.

During the board’s Code of Conduct discussion, board members Paula Wright and Connie Hall also said they want to make sure teachers don’t discriminate against some students. Wright said black males are disproportionately given discipline referrals.

“We are developing and helping our adult leaders in the buildings understand the value of cultural sensitivity,” she said. “... Because a students has dreads doesn’t mean that they’re automatically going to be cast negatively.”

Duval has a program that offers some training called the Ruby Payne program. Wright said it can entail walking the neighborhoods and inviting the schools’ neighbors to weekend activities.  

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said by the end of this upcoming school year every teacher will have had the opportunity to go through it.

The board will vote on Code of Conduct updates next month.

Editor's note: The number of fights and punishments for fighting have been updated.

Photoused under Creative Commons.

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.