505 policy change


Top row from left to right: Board Vice Chair Matt Goldade, Director Mark Bartusek, Director Leo Giesen, and Board Clerk Dennis Havlicek. Bottom row from left to right: Board Treasurer Kim Holden, Director Jeanne Kubes, and Board Chair Tammy Pexa.

Sophia DeJong, Writer

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot of things in our daily lives, and now the school board is dealing with what is right and wrong in online classrooms. At the January 25th school board meeting, the group made a change to policy 505. Previously, the policy stated, “distribution of the materials listed is always prohibited on school property or during any school activity.” This list goes on to include many things that could be interpreted as offensive. 

Recently a student has been displaying objectionable items in the background of their google meets which goes against one item in the list that prohibits signs or materials which contain “objectionable emblems, badges, symbols, signs, words, objects or pictures communicating a message that is racist, sexist, or otherwise derogatory to a protected minority group, evidences gang membership or affiliation, or approves, advances or provokes any form of religious, racial or sexual harassment and/or violence against other individuals . . .” (Policy 505). 

The change clarifies that this policy applies to both online and in-person classes. The change also clarifies that flags, signs, and banners with these derogatory messages are prohibited. At the school board meeting, it was also stated that the New Prague Area Schools “has received numerous complaints and experienced substantial disruptions related to the display of the confederate flag.” Members of administration also believe “the message being conveyed by the flag here is that some students are not welcome, and [they] feel that message is unacceptable and contrary to everything we do, and [they] can see that if [they] do not do something about this now [they] are going to have more disruptions ahead.” The policy change was passed six to one, and they now prohibit the confederate flag in school and online classes. 

Many high school students were fans of the policy change, but some were also against it. Among the students in the commons, about three-fourths of the students had nothing against the policy change. One senior said, “just move your camera,” and a junior said, “school is not the time or place for that.” A freshman stated, “first amendment rights are a slippery slope, but nobody should feel unsafe in school, pandemic or otherwise.” Only one person who was against the policy change commented on their stance. This sophomore said, “I don’t think the school district should be able to govern the decorations in students’ homes.”

The staff approached with the topic showed an even higher percentage of people in support. The majority of them believed that if a policy change would make learning environments feel more safe and less distracting for students then there wasn’t much reason to oppose it. Social studies teachers Ms. Meyer and Ms. Olson agreed that “all students should have an equal opportunity to a safe and just education.” Mr. Stensrud of the Language Arts department believes that “as educators, we must be mindful of marginalized groups and do our best to make them feel as though they belong in our community.” Mr. Mould, who teaches about the civil war, stated “students displaying the [confederate] flag should ask themselves what they are trying to convey and is it really worth it if the flag is making other students feel unsafe?” 

Many students expressed how fortunate they feel they are to be able to live in a place where they are protected from harassment and violence while they get an education.