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KCSD considers new athlete concussion policy

Posted: October 8, 2013 4:22 p.m.
Updated: October 9, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Fifteen Kershaw County School District (KCSD) athletes have had confirmed concussion so far this school year -- 13 at Lugoff-Elgin High School (L-EHS) and two at North Central High School (NCHS). No Camden High School students have endured head injuries. At NCHS, one student was a volleyball player and the other was a football player. Ten of the L-EHS athletes were football players; the other three included a volleyball player, cheerleader and a student in a physical education class. All team sports injuries happened at an official game, according to the district.

At the Kershaw Count Board of School Trustees’ Oct. 1 meeting, KCSD Director for Pupil Services Duane Pate said all three schools are using the same protocol software in determining concussions. A student can legally have up to three concussions per school year before having to sit out of the game for the year, Pate said.

The S.C. School Board Association (SCBA) recently recommended new policies regarding student athlete concussions for school districts in South Carolina. The SBA sends out policy updates every year to reflect legislation and regulation set by the General Assembly, KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan said during the meeting.

The proposed policies address identifying and managing student athletes who may have endured a concussion. A concussion is defined as “a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, face or neck that can change the way the brain normally works,” according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Concussions can also happen with a “blow” to the body that causes the head to move “rapidly back and forth,” it said. The CDC said concussions can happen without losing consciousness and proper management is critical to the short-term and long-term safety of the student. Any students suspected of having a head injury or concussion must immediately be removed for the game or practice. Students can only return to the game if it is determined by qualified parties (a coach, athletic trainer, game official, physician or nurse) that they have not sustained an injury; students suspected of an injury must see and have clearance by a physician before the student can return.

The SCBA states that a district must follow S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control and S.C. Department of Education guidelines to develop “comprehensive and practical concussion management plans.” Because a concussion can be difficult to determine, parents and students are asked to look for concussion symptoms and signs such as memory loss, the slurring of words, vomiting, double vision and issues with sleeping. If the district adopts the policies, teachers would be notified when student athletes have endured concussions, as it may affect their performance. School districts would administer a concussion fact sheet to all students, parents, coaches and volunteers annually that requires parent and student signatures to participate in school sports. The district began administering a fact sheet this year that was approved by its attorney, Pate said. The district will use SCBA’s fact sheet from now on, however, KCSD Director of Communications Mary Anne Byrd said.

The SCBA also suggested updates based on a change by the S.C. Board of Education concerning the Assisting, Developing and Evaluating Professional Teaching (ADEPT) regulation. ADEPT changed three policies for the district: evaluation of instructional staff, staff compensation and professional staff contracts and compensation. The purpose of the evaluation policy is to “ensure accountability” within a school district. The evaluation and staff compensation policies are new to the district’s policy manual, but familiar to district personnel as they have used them for quite some time, Byrd said. The district had the professional staff contracts and compensation policy in their manual, but updated it to reflect SCBA’s recommendations.

The SCBA said that every employee should be informed about how they will be evaluated and what the result of their evaluation is. The district will use the ADEPT system to evaluate certified teachers in the induction programs or teachers under any kind of contract. Districts across the state will develop induction programs, which the district already has, to provide new teachers with the support they need. Under the SCBA’s recommendation, teachers should not be allowed to participate in an induction program for more than three years. School districts must develop criteria to help first year annual contract teachers be successful. First year contract teachers must pass a “formal performance evaluation” or undergo “diagnostic assistance” during the same year or during the year following an unsuccessful performance evaluation. Teachers are only allowed one diagnostic assistance, which must be followed by another evaluation during the next year.

For annual contract teachers, a school district must use evaluation techniques that comply with the state board of education regulations. All teachers under annual contracts must also have “individualized professional growth plan” developed by the school district. Teachers cannot be employed under annual contracts for more than four years, according to evaluation documents. The district has the option of formal or informal evaluations for teachers under continuing contracts, which should be administered on a “continuing basis.” Teachers “recommended” for formal evaluation during the next year must be notified before the teacher renews their contract.

There is also legislation regarding teachers employed from other states, teachers at charter schools and teachers with a “limited professional certificate.” In regard to compensating staff, SCBA is asking that districts pay professionals with the hopes of attracting qualified professionals and keeping them by taking into consideration the number of years served and level of professional training. Morgan and trustees have had several discussions about the loss of teachers due to pay, as well as National Board stipends. The board voted to approve a 2 percent raise to teacher and staff salary this year.

Administrators will present two to four policies every school board meeting until the board votes on the changes at the board’s Nov. 5 meeting.

 

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