NJSBA policy consultants answer multiple inquiries related to policy manual maintenance every day.

District and charter school policy manuals often include more than 200 policies, and in many cases, an equal number of regulations. Paper policy manuals can weigh in at more than 10 lbs. So it is understandable that board members face the daunting task of maintaining their manual with trepidation.

The Question One question that has often come up: What should a district do if a policy no longer reflects the district’s or school’s position or practices? Can the policy be taken out of the manual?

Policies that no longer apply to your school or district can and should be removed from the manual.

They must, however be repealed by official board action. A motion must be brought before the board to repeal a policy and the motion approved by a majority of the members. The policy may then be removed from the manual and archived in a separate folder.

Why Policy Becomes Obsolete A policy may become unneccesary for many reasons.

Statutes and administrative code may change or state rules may be repealed. For example, in 2009 the New Jersey Department of Education replaced the state monitoring system with the Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC). This made all the policies that described the former monitoring system obsolete.

Recently, in response to the pandemic, the governor has issued executive orders requiring policies for vaccination and testing and face coverings. These executive orders may be repealed. At such a time, the board may choose to repeal the policies associated with the executive orders.

Policies may be repealed due to changes in circumstances. Frequently districts will have policies that are very specific to their district and not based on law or required by law. We refer to these as discretionary policies. Discretionary policies are usually developed in response to a situation that arises. Since these policies are not affected by changes in law, they may live in your manual for years without ever being reviewed. We have seen policies on student protests, electric fans, javelin safety and classroom pets to name a few. If you no longer allow classroom pets, then the policy should be repealed or amended. Policies on student safety patrols are in almost all the manuals that we review.  If you do not have a student safety patrol, then the policy should be repealed. 

There may be duplicate and/or redundant policies at different file codes in the manual. When reviewing a policy for revision, search the manual and inventory all the policies on closely related topics. When you find redundant coverage, you may be able to consolidate the policies by adding all the useful content under one policy and repealing the rest.

The process to repeal is the same as the process to adopt or amend a policy.

The committee in charge of reviewing the policy, such as the policy committee, would recommend that the policy be put on the board agenda for repeal. The committee proposing the repeal should be prepared to present the reasons justifying the recommendation for repeal.

Policy Repeal Process A policy may be repealed with one reading. There is no law that requires two readings before a policy may be adopted, revised or repealed. If the repeal generates discussion or controversy, the board may decide to allow for a second reading in order to consider the matter further. 

Repealed policies should be removed from the active manual. Maintaining unnecessary repealed policies, copies of work drafts and outdated duplicates of amended policies, makes the manual larger, and can confuse policy searches and readers.

Redundant and duplicate policies in particular can lead to confusion on which course of action applies. Repealed policies should, however, be retained and archived in a separate location. In the case of a dispute involving a policy, the policy that was in place at the time of the incident will need to be available for review.

Reviewing an entire manual in order to identify unnecessary policies can be overwhelming. Applying some common sense strategies and perseverance can go a long way to making this important board document understandable not only to the board members but to the school community.

Taking the time to check your policies on the issues that are listed on the board agenda, reviewing updates and revisions as they are presented for board adoption and scanning the table of contents for other related polices will help identify policies that are no longer necessary and should be considered for repeal.

If you get stuck, cannot find a policy or have trouble understanding what you are reading, ask for help. You will always find the NJSBA policy staff ready and willing to provide model policy samples, research and suggestions regardless of the manual system you use.

Jean Harkness is manager of NJSBA’s policy unit.