School officials taking another look at discipline
The discipline plan was discussed as a result of the presentation of a general report for October submitted to the board by WEMS administrators. Board members expressed concern in reference to the high numbers involving disciplinary action within the report.
In August, the board approved a new disciplinary plan consisting of four levels. Level one addresses minor infractions such as turning in homework late, failing to dress for gym class or not having proper materials and equipment in class. Level one offenses are handled by the teacher in the classroom.
Level two includes students who talk inappropriately, engage in horseplay, disturb other students, cheat or plagiarize. This level has a three-step system that includes verbal warnings, time outs, changing the student’s environment, parent contact and referral to the principal’s office.
Level three is defined as “those behaviors outside the classroom that are not physically threatening and are not illegal, but negatively affect an orderly environment.” These offenses include disruptive behavior within the school and on the bus and not attending school.
Punishment at this level can include in-school or out-of-school suspensions, verbal or written behavioral plans, parental contact or detention.
Level four offenses are the most serious and address behaviors that pose a potential threat to the school, are physically threatening or illegal. These offenses include possession, sale or distribution or use of weapons or alcohol, sexual harassment, theft, arson, hazing and filing false emergency reports. Depending on the severity of the offence, out-of-school suspension for a minimum of one day or up to one year and even expulsion can be recommended.
The report reviewed by board members showed that in October, 145 disciplinary infractions occurred involving students in grades sixth through eighth. Five violations were level one offenses, 57 were level two offenses, 35 were level three offenses and 48 were classified as level four. Of the 48 level four violations, 33 were committed by students in the eighth grade class.
Of the 145 violations, 19 were handled with in-school suspensions, seven resulted in out-of school suspensions, two attended Saturday school and one student was removed from the school bus.
The administrative staff at WEMS is discussing the creation of a dean of students position to address disciplinary issues only. The new position would decrease the burden on administrators so they can focus on their other duties, said Hughes.
While at the school the prior week, board member Joyce McNelly said she observed a “stack” of referrals on the principal’s desk that were several weeks old.
“He was worried about pulling students out of class weeks later to address an issue the student has probably forgotten,” said McNelly.
Hughes stated that she is in charge of discipline on the elementary side and is “able to keep up” if she is in the building.
She said that she had some student referrals on her desk at that time that were a week old.
“The referrals that are a week old came from David (Bowling, principal of WEMS),” said Hughes.
Bowling was absent from the meeting.
McNelly questioned creating the dean of students position.
“Wouldn’t this make our administration top heavy? Why does discipline take so long?” said McNelly.
Investigating the offense can consume a great deal of time. When disciplinary offenses occur, especially serious offenses, the administrators must contact the student, interview the teacher issuing the referral, initiate contact with a parent and sometimes contact the police department, said Hughes.
Board member Janet Cothren pointed out that the report presented had zero police reports generated from the offenses.
Hughes pointed out that this is the first year the school has an assistant principal, a new principal and a new discipline plan.
“Perhaps the new plan is part of the problem because it is so stringent,” said board member Albert “Bud” Parenteau, Sr.
More training and better communication could be a key element in resolving the issue, said McNelly.
“The dean position is a temporary solution,” said board member Bruce Baker.
Williams High School Principal Robert Kuhn said the position would be filled by a “teacher on assignment.” He added that when he can, he assists the administrators at the WEMS with discipline.
The WHS utilizes a crisis intervention program operated by the Alternative Center, which had previously been approved by the board. The program is used for truancy situations, said Kuhn.
Parenteau suggested that the WEMS administrators utilize the program offered by the Alternative Center.
“It could help them fine-tune the discipline plan,” said Parenteau.
The report showed that grades kindergarten through fifth had roughly one-third of discipline violations the middle school had. Fifty-two violations were reported. Three were level one offenses, 27 level two violations occurred, 16 level three violations were reported and six were level four violations. No police reports were generated. Two violators received in-school suspension and two were suspended from the bus.
The WHS board report showed 43 discipline violations. Two students were suspended for consuming alcohol on non-school times that involved school and two suspensions occurred for inappropriate language involving a teacher. Sixteen classroom violations occurred, 14 students were caught in “hall sweeps” and two students were suspended from the bus. Four violations were addressed in reference to student harassment issues.
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