There are changes in store for high school students in Farmington this year. The school district has updated the student handbook and installed hundreds of real-time video cameras at every school in the district.
Students and parents, last year, had to deal with closed campuses for the first time in recent years. Administrators from both Farmington and Piedra Vista high schools reported to the school board Tuesday, July 17, that they did not experience many problems after fencing both campuses and stationing security guards at the parking lot entrances. There also was a police presence at the start of school, which let students know the district was serious about keeping kids on school grounds throughout the day.
This year, video cameras will be added to allow principals and authorities an opportunity to view student activities in the halls and congregating areas. There will be none in restrooms, because “you can’t do that,” explained Frank Stimac, assistant superintendent.
There will be signs posted on each campus saying there are surveillance cameras on the property. “Even though we’ve had video cameras in the schools for eight years, there weren’t that many and they were pointed at doors and only monitored at night,” said Robert Emerson, assistant superintendent. “Principals can watch it in real time from their office. There are a lot more (cameras) than when we were just monitoring the doors for vandalism and break-ins.”
After school and on weekends the Juvenile Detention Center will monitor the cameras. “It’s not going to cost us anything, just some hardware,” Stimac said.
Emerson added that the policy was adopted because there were more cameras on campus that could be accessed at any time.
The cameras are just one change students will have to get used to. Administrative staff from the three high schools got together and added some important new language and rules to the 2012-2013 handbooks, according to FHS Assistant Principal Kristy Burns.
New words and definitions were added to address societal changes. These include implementing rules about “cyberbullying” and “sexting.”
“Every year there is something new,” Burns said. “If you get onto Myspace or Facebook and say you are going to kick their butt after lunch, this makes it a clear assault.”
There are Internet filters on campus, but she said students find ways of getting around those filters. “They can get on. We try to restrict it, but they get on,” Burns said. “It’s a battle.”
As far as “sexting” goes, Burns said there have not been any instances of it at Farmington High, but it is an issue that needs to be addressed as it is a growing trend across the nation.
Emerson developed a handbook definition for “sexting” from the Miami-Dade County definition. “It’s basically saying that we are not going to tolerate that behavior,” he explained.
Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit photos or material by mobile phone. The word is derived from the combination of sex and texting, and according to School Board Member Bill Young, New Mexico laws have not been updated to address the growing problem.
“If we have one of our students violate this it falls under the New Mexico sex offender act. They could face up to seven years in prison and become a registered sex offender,” Young said. “I don’t think people understand the consequences of sexting.”
In case students don’t read the handbook, they will be familiarized with the topic during computer laptop training, Emerson said.
A third change was added in the dress code policy; basically all three high schools have implemented a “No Tank Top” policy. “It was something all the high schools discussed at length to determine whether tank tops should be removed from the dress code. It was decided that all three high schools would implement a no tank tops policy,” Burns explained.
This is to combat the issue of students wearing provocative clothing. The handbook already covered spaghetti straps, shirts with no backs and crop tops, but administrators felt tank tops needed to be added to keep students’ minds in the classroom, Burns said.
Anthony Smagacz, assistant principal at Piedra Vista High School, said he believes his office will be filled the first week of school with students that have their shoulders showing. He wanted to know if there would be leniency.
Burns stated that the district would be lenient with students the first couple of weeks, and would even offer free T-shirts to those students who don’t have something else to wear.
Parent Patty Merrion asked about school uniforms that include tank tops, such as those of the basketball and volleyball teams. She was told the tank tops would be allowed on the court but not during classroom time.
All of the changes were presented to the Farmington School Board for a first reading. They will be adopted during the August meeting.