Mitchell Board of Education to review sexual harassment policy

Emergency roof repairs also on the agenda for Sept. 14 meeting

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The Mitchell Board of Education is expected to consider emergency maintenance for the Mitchell Middle School roof at its next meeting Monday.

The Mitchell Board of Education is expected to update its sexual harassment policies for schools in the district at its next scheduled meeting.

The meeting will take place at 5 p.m. Monday at the Mitchell High School Library.

The board is scheduled to review changes to both overall district policy and policies specific to Mitchell Technical College. The changes come after the federal government recently made changes to policy requirements and regulations on the issue of sexual harassment in schools, Joe Graves, superintendent for the Mitchell School District, wrote in the agenda notes for the Sept. 14 meeting.

Graves is recommending, based on legal consultation and model board policies recently revised by the Associated School Boards of South Dakota, deleting policies 115 and 115R entirely and replaced with new policies that adhere to federal guidelines.

“Original federal requirements in this area were made in an attempt to address the issue of sexual harassment in schools. Subsequent changes to those requirements are an attempt to shore up due process obligations and the rights of the accused,” Graves wrote in the meeting agenda. “This policy and this regulation, included in our policy manual, address both the original intent and the subsequent changes.”


The board will also review similar policies for Mitchell Technical Institute. Policy 115, harassment, only changes definitions and does so within the footnotes in the policy. The revised policy is therefore very similar to the existing policy. Policy 117, sexual harassment, Title IX, is essentially a complete rewrite of the former policy.

The revised Mitchell Tech policies also reflect changes in harassment and sexual harassment law for post-secondary schools at the federal level. The laws were recently strengthened to address what was perceived as a crisis among such institutions across the county, according to notes provided in the meeting agenda. During congressional debates on such legislation and subsequent to its implementation, critics identified what they perceived to be violations or potential violations of due process rights and the rights of the accused within the new laws.

In order to respond to those concerns, new federal regulations were recently issued that require post-secondary schools to revise their policies in this area.

Emergency roof maintenance

The board will consider declaring an emergency maintenance situation and approving a quote for roof repairs at Mitchell Middle School.

High winds that occurred Sept. 2 caused a large section of the Mitchell Middle School roof over the wood-floor gymnasium and a section of the roof over the school cafeteria to detach from the roof bed. Both sections of roofing have been weighed down and remain in place. The building is not experiencing rain infiltration at this time, Graves noted in the meeting agenda.

Graves is requesting to accelerate the repair process by declaring an emergency situation to quickly approve a quote for the project so that repairs can begin immediately.

“We are concerned that another strong wind storm could cause a great deal of damage to either or both roofs,” Graves noted.


General obligation certificates

Graves said historically low interest rates prompted him and Steve Culhane, business manager for the district, to contact financial consultants to determine if refinancing district debt on the Performing Arts Center Project would be advisable, with the determination made that doing so would save the district about $1.1 million.

Graves said he would recommend the board approve a resolution to issue and sell refunding certificates along with a state aid pledge agreement which would allow the district to tap into state credit ratings. That would provide the district a higher credit rating and access to lower interest rates.


The board is also expected to approve the following personnel moves:

  • The new certified hires of Judy Gair, crossing guard at Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary, $14, effective Aug. 19; Lorry Gykes, general food service worker at Mitchell Middle School, $12.75, effective Aug. 27; Conny Tschoepe, special education para at L.B. Williams Elementary, $11.26, effective Sept. 2; Maggie Ireland, general food service worker, $12.75, effective Sept. 1 and Cheryl Liddeke, paradeducator at L.B. Williams Elementary, $11.26, effective Sept. 9.

  • The resignations of April Rickel, paraeducator at L.B. Williams Elementary, effective Sept. 4 and Mary Pranger, paraeducator at L.B. Williams, effective Sept. 11.

  • The new Mitchell Tech hires of Tristan Sawyer-Kociemba, substation student worker less than 20 hours per week, $10.25, effective Sept. 14; Alexander Pugsley, substation student worker less than 20 hours per week, $10.25, effective Sept. 14 and Riley Whitley, substation student worker less than 20 hours per week, $10.25, effective Sept. 14

Other business

Also Monday, the board is expected to:

  • Hear a presentation by Luke Hagen of Mitchell Main Street & Beyond and Karen Pooley of the Carnegie Resource Center.

  • Recognize Julie Olson, National Geographic Grosvenor Fellowship Winner and Profile Grant Writer.

  • Hear board member and superintendent reports.

  • Hear public commentary.

  • Hear a presentation by Joei Reiners and Joe Childs on The Caring Closet.

The meeting is open to the public. All in attendance are asked to wear masks and maintain social distancing practices.

Erik Kaufman joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2019 as an education and features reporter. He grew up in Freeman, S.D., graduating from Freeman High School. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1999 with a major in English and a minor in computer science. He can be reached at
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