School board makes recommendations regarding discipline
Parent shadowing, extracurricular eligibility among suggestions
Parent shadowing, sensitivity training and new approaches to disciplinary issues were among the recommendations members of the Charles County Board of Education presented at the board’s May 9 meeting.
School discipline issues were by far the leading topic of discussion during a teacher town hall meeting held by the board March 6.
At the board’s March 21 meeting, Board of Education Chairman Michael Lukas divided the other board members into two teams of three and asked them to look at the discipline matrix and make recommendations for changes.
The first group was comprised of board vice chairwoman Barbara Palko and board members Jennifer Abell and Victoria Kelly. Palko said attacks on teachers have increased almost 70 percent over three years, and most other infractions have also gone up.
One of their recommendations was to revisit the school system’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, or PBIS, which rewards students for positive behaviors.
“PBIS seems to have evolved into more of an extrinsic reward emphasis than on an intrinsic value of doing the right because it’s the right thing to do,” Palko said. “We should particularly consider programs that emphasize building relationships and character education.”
Palko said her group also recommended “parent shadowing,” referred to as reverse suspension at the town hall meeting, as an alternative to punishments that keep students out of school in middle and high school.
Kelly said parent shadowing is currently in use in other school districts in Maryland and several other states.
Parent shadowing would, as an alternative to suspension, have a parent accompany their student through the school day.
“We always talk about how we don’t want kids out of school, this is a way to keep them in school,” Kelly said. “At the same time, we want to handle these problems and fix them … By the time you’re in middle or especially high school, you do not want your parent coming and staying with you through school. Also, it maybe forces that communication at home between the student and the parent that you really need to conduct yourself appropriately.”
The school system’s discipline code lists responses to infractions in five levels of increasing severity. Kelly said her group is recommending increasing the severity range for a number of infractions, including disrespect, bullying and harassment, sexual attack, bomb threat, tobacco, fighting and other weapons infractions.
Kelly’s group also recommended adding a behavioral component to the extracurricular eligibility policy.
“Kids need to learn how to conduct themselves appropriately in schools because when they get out into the real world, they’re going to be held to that standard,” Kelly said. “We feel that being able to participate in an extracurricular activity is a privilege, and you need to be able to conduct yourself appropriately in order to gain that privilege.”
The PowerPoint presentation of the recommendations can be found on the school system’s website under BoardDocs.
The second group was comprised of board members Virginia McGraw, Mark Crawford and Margaret Marshall. Crawford said his group tried to consider the possible root causes for the breakdown in discipline.
“One possible root cause may be that the discipline problems we are experiencing are not the result of a lack of a set of formalized expectations, but a lack of understanding of individuals and/or the lack of establishing relationships with students,” Crawford said.
The second group recommended researching alternatives to PBIS for the middle and high school population, developing programs that promote “self-awareness of pride, humility and respect” and improving sensitivity training for staff that is on a more personal, hands-on level.
“It all comes back to that fourth ‘R’ — relationships,” Marshall said. “It’s the foundation for how we implement the other three.”
“We agree with most of what has been said here,” Superintendent Kimberly Hill said afterward. “We as adults need to know and value our students before we can teach them anything.”