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Ethics topic of discussion at Daybreak Rotary meeting

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Ron Jetter talks to members of the Sunnyside Daybreak Rotary Club about the Sunnyside School District Ethics Committee and the work it has done since its inception two years ago.

For the past two years Sunnyside resident and pastor of Our Saviour's Lutheran Church Ron Jetter has been spending time serving as part of the Sunnyside School District Ethics Committee as a representative of the Sunnyside Ministerial Association.

Jetter, who served as the speaker during Wednesday morning's meeting of the Sunnyside Daybreak Rotary Club, said the hardest thing about ethics is defining it.

"Our job is to put it into words," Jetter said of the committee.

He said when the Ethics Committee was first created two years ago, it was created with the idea that teaching students to read and write isn't enough. Through their education students should also learn what is ethical, moral behavior.

Jetter told Rotarians that the Ethics Committee is an organization made up of eight people. Four people on the committee are school district employees, including Sunnyside Supt. Rick Cole, as well as representatives from the school district's administration, classified and certified staff. The remaining four members of the committee are made up of community members.

When the group was formed, Jetter said one of the first tasks presented to it by the school board was to create a code of ethics for the district.

Jetter said the code of ethics is three-fold. He explained first, staff members need to set a good example for the students, setting the bar high for excellence. The next component is the students.

"We want them know they're expected to achieve, and to treat others with respect," Jetter said.

The final part of the three-fold plan involves parents. Jetter said the committee had a difficult time deciding whether or not the school district had any right to tell parents what is expected of them. In the end, Jetter said, the parent component has proven to be one of the most important portions of the code of ethics. He said parents play a vital role in supporting children through school involvement, as well as helping them make ethical decisions.

Jetter said since the creation of the Ethics Committee the school board had brought several important issues to them, including whether or not armed police officers should be on school campuses.

"We spent a few weeks on that," Jetter said, noting that the committee took time to talk to the local police chief, as well as the student resource officer.

Jetter said the group has also tackled the issue of branding, which is when a school district signs an exclusive contract to market a particular product on school grounds.

The most recent issue the Ethics Committee has taken on involves the athletic code. Jetter explained that there is a portion of the athletic code that deals with the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs and what happens if a student is found to be using the substances or found in the vicinity of minors who are using the substances.

"Ninety percent of the issues that come to us have nothing to do with books and teaching," Jetter said.

. Elena Olmstead can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or e-mail her at eolmstead@eaglenewspapers.com

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