Harford schools to permit club gatherings in private homes

Harford County Public Schools officials have revised club and extracurricular activity policies to make them clear that student gatherings held in private residences are permitted, but only if school system staff or sponsors of the organizations have not planned them.

Patrick Spicer, general counsel for the school system, introduced updated club and extracurricular policies to the Board of Education in late July to define school clubs "relative to" extracurricular activities, set out the regulations, including those on club or activity-related gatherings, to protect school personnel from liability.

Spicer presented revised policies to the school board Monday, which made it clear students and parents can plan and host activities in residences off school grounds.

"I don't think that we intended to fully restrict the participation by students at those activities... we didn't intend to prohibit or discourage dinners at private homes, or activities initiated or planned by the club members themselves," Spicer explained.

Members of the public had previously raised concerns the policies could preclude students and their families from hosting gatherings for their fellow participants at someone's home. Ben Barsam, the student representative to the school board, had also questioned Spicer about the private home issue.

Both policies have been available for public comment, and the school board voted Monday to hold both for another 30 days of public comment.

Answering questions from board member Robert Frisch, Spicer said school system employees could attend the private functions if invited, and he expects employees would be obligated to report any student actions which violate club policies, school system disciplinary policies or the law.

"Certainly the reporting of anything that a student did improperly, for the purpose of the school environment, and the club itself, I think would be clearly inferred from the responsibility and obligations set forth in the employee handbook," Spicer said.

The club and extracurricular policies can be found on the right-hand side of the home page on the Harford County Public Schools' website, http://www.hcps.org.

Board member Alysson Krchnavy said she was glad to see the clarifications.

"I think that this is part of how community involvement in a policy can help to make a difference," Krchnavy said.


Three groups of school system employees – school nurses, cafeteria workers and custodians – were recognized during the board meeting.

Janet Mueller, school nurse at Havre de Grace Elementary School, was recognized as the Harford County Public Schools Nurse of the Year.

The award is bestowed annually by the Harford School Health Services Association to a nurse who has "demonstrated outstanding service to the school, the school system and her profession."

Mueller has aided children and staff at Havre de Grace Elementary since 2005.

"I just cannot stay enough about our nursing staff in our county, and she certainly is an example of how wonderful they are," Interim Superintendent Barbara Canavan said of Mueller.

Mueller said she was "honored, truly honored to have this award bestowed upon me."

"So many friends from school are here this evening and without their support, truly I would not be standing here this evening," she said. "They are just a fabulous, fabulous group of people."

School officials also honored the Harford County Public Schools Food and Nutrition Office, and the county's 34 elementary schools, for earning the "bronze level of distinction" in the HealthierUS School Challenge, an initiative of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to promote healthy eating and physical activity in schools.

Gary Childress, supervisor of food and nutrition, thanked his staff and the cafeteria staff for their efforts.

"The people out in the field, the managers, and the rest of the people in the office just do a great job in leading this program and helping us go forward," Childress said.

Canavan noted lunch is the "favorite time of day" in the schools.

"Nobody seems to be late and everybody seems to be happy... and that's because of the great service that they get and the welcome that they get in the cafeteria," the superintendent said.

Custodial staff at 13 Harford County schools, including 11 elementary, one middle and one high school, were recognized for achieving the top scores among 54 Harford County schools in the Facilities Management Department's biannual inspections of their facilities.

The winning schools included Bel Air Elementary, Darlington Elementary, Dublin Elementary, Edgewood Elementary, Forest Lakes Elementary, Hall's Cross Roads Elementary, Jarrettsville Elementary, John Archer, Red Pump Elementary, Roye-Williams Elementary, William S. James Elementary, Fallston Middle and Patterson Mill Middle and High School.

"Keeping our schools clean, keeping our schools safe and in order is so important for children," Canavan said. "They have a place to go to that's welcoming, and it is inspiring because of the way all of these people work every single day and all night to get those schools ready for the kids and the staff."

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