DeKalb County School System whistleblowers have a new mechanism to report violations. Teachers can be terminated if bullying is not properly reported and in the event of more lay-offs an employee’s performance will trump seniority.
“We’re getting tougher. Changing our culture,” District 9 School Board Member Dr. Eugene Walker said after the board voted unanimously Dec. 6 to amend three key policies.
Ultimately, the amendments update the policies to reflect state law and stiffen penalties.
The board approved an administrative regulation that sets up a process for employees to follow if they allege that either the system’s Whistleblower Protection, Code of Ethics for Employees or Staff Conflict of Interest policies have been violated.
The regulation expands where the employee can file the complaint–an employee may bypass their direct supervisor and go to a number of offices–from internal affairs to the office of the superintendent or chair of the board of education.
“Any large organization needs a strong whistleblower protection policy. People need to be protected,” Walker said.
Nothing in the regulation prohibits an employee from filing a complaint against the system, under Georgia’s Whistleblower Protection Act.
This means an employee can contact an outside government agency directly to disclose a violation of the Georgia Whistleblower Protection Act and be assured of no reprisal.
The amendment to the Professional Personnel Lay-Off policy incorporates performance as the first criteria in implementing a Reduction-In-Force (RIF) with length of continuous service as the second criteria.
“This in my opinion is the most important change to our policies. It emphasizes and places performance in its right order when faced with a RIF,” DeKalb Board of Education Chair Thomas Bowen said.
“Sometimes we lose the best people when seniority is emphasized,” he added.
Chief Human Resources Officer Jamie L. Wilson said professional, contracted employees will keep their due process rights under the Fair Dismissal Law of Georgia
“Now supervisors will look at professional expertise, effectiveness and overall job performance, including, but not limited to written annual evaluations, absenteeism and tardiness before how long you’ve been with the district,” Wilson said.
When employees’ job performance is equal, the length of continuous service is then considered when making a recommendation for the termination.
In response to 11 year-old Jaheem Herrera’s suicide in April 2009, and the signing of a bill in May by Governor Sonny Perdue which revised the state bullying statute, the board approved an amendment that updates the system’s bullying policy.
The amendment expands the system’s 1998 policy and clarifies definitions and expectations, such as what Cyberstalking, Cyberbullying and social isolation are.
The policy goes further to say that an employee who fails to comply with the requirements of this policy may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.
“You can no longer close your eyes and turn your head and forget about the child,” District 7 school board member Zepora Roberts said.
“Now you will be held accountable,” she added.