I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Getting Ahead of Chronic, Habitual Discipline Problem Students in Schools

On the School Board's next discussion workshop agenda I have placed an agenda item regarding discipline.

I am going to propose to my counterparts that we establish a discipline intervention overlay to the district's recently adopted school discipline matrix.

The purpose for this proposed  policy addition is to catch and address bad behavior early and often in  in order to improve the safety, climate and learning atmosphere in our schools. Once we get this area under control (because currently it is not) all the other difficult issues surrounding teaching students will be much more manageable.

As we have seen with our first grade retention protocol regarding intensified notification and interaction with elementary school parents and students at the first grade level--setting a firm set of steps improves parental engagement and  student academic outcomes. With the reading program, we mandate parent conferences with students at risk of retention.  This has helped us tremendously with reducing the number of students not reading on grade level upon leaving first grade.  It has also helped our general parental engagement efforts as well.

With respect to discipline in our schools, we simply have too many students racking up obscene numbers of referrals while simultaneously being allowed to stay in their schools and demoralize staff and destroy the learning environments for other students who come to school to learn.

The overwhelmingly positive response to my recent op-ed in the Pensacola News Journal is the stark proof of this....

So what I'm proposing to my counterparts on the school board and to the superintendent's staff is a district-level intervention be written into policy.

If a student receives more than 10 referrals in any one semester, or a total of 15 in any one school year, such a student will  automatically be given a 9-day suspension from his regular school and a summons to appear downtown at the McDaniel Building for a district disciplinary hearing.   His/her family will also be required to come to the district office and appear before this panel of administrators, specialists, counselors, and other personnel as necessary--the point of which will be to ascertain what has gone wrong with such a student's behavior.  At this meeting at the downtown office, a judgement will be rendered as to the future placement of the student (traditional school w/ STRICTLY ENFORCED behavior contract, alternative school, or perhaps Camelot or DJJ) depending upon what the causes for the misbehavior are.   Additionally, if the student requires other district provided services (ESE, Counseling, etc.) for conditions that may be contributing to the misbehavior, a timeline and a detailed plan to administer such services will also be offered.

Lastly, and most importantly, such a policy must be adhered to with fidelity to ensure success.

For this reason, I will suggest that it be disseminated far and wide, throughout the district, that our anonymous hotline number be made available to everyone district-wide, with the intention being to ensure compliance.  A call to this hotline alleging any employee  attempts to subvert this policy by directing employees under their charge to not write a referral for discipline or to not act on a blatant behavior violation in an attempt to frustrate this policy, that such conduct if confirmed will be met significant disciplinary consequences in accordance with school board policy, Florida Law, and relevant collective bargaining agreement language.

I'll further suggest that the minutiae of the procedural aspects of this board policy be developed by the superintendent's staff via a SOP and disseminated to members of the board.

As we did with first grade reading--we must engage in school-wide discipline interventions.  We must do more, and we must do better.

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