Problem behaviors in public schools addressed
Adjustments to Code of Student Conduct, new programs planned
Charles County Public Schools is looking to revise its response matrix and add new programs following teacher complaints regarding lack of disciplinary controls and unruly student behavior.
The Board of Education held a town hall meeting with educators on March 6, during which the main concern by far from teachers and administrators was disciplinary issues and disruptions.
The school board made several recommendations to staff at its May 9 meeting, and many of those recommendations came back as new initiatives Tuesday during a staff presentation as part of its “Initiatives to Support Positive Learning Environments.”
“The recommendations that our board members have made have helped to fuel a lot of this work,” said Deputy Superintendent Amy Hollstein. “These are new initiatives that we’d like to put in place for the ’17-’18 school year.”
In particular, the school system will pilot a parent shadowing program at six schools: C. Paul Barnhart and Berry elementary schools, Milton Somers and Benjamin Stoddert middle schools and Henry E. Lackey
and St. Charles high schools.
The program would be an alternative to out-of-school suspensions for students who exhibit nonviolent, non-verbally abusive behavior. Parents would accompany their child throughout the school day.
“This is an alternative to traditional suspension, but also it’s a way to strengthen home-to-school connections,” Hollstein said.
The revised changes to the response matrix include raising the response level on some offenses. The school system uses a five-tiered system of responses to infractions in its Code of Student Conduct, ranging from Level 1 responses such as verbal
corrections, contacting parents and changing seat assignments, to Level 5 responses, which include long term suspensions and expulsions.
The revisions change harassment, bullying and sexual harassment from a minimum Level 1 to a Level 2 response, tobacco use increases to a minimum Level 4 response and increases the response for disrespect from a maximum Level 3 response to a maximum Level 5 response by coding repeated acts of disrespect as a disruption.
“The workgroup from the state was very adamant that students not be suspended out of school for disrespect,”
said Patricia Vaira, director of student services. “However, if these behaviors rise to a level that they’re causing a significant disruption, then we’ll be putting text in the Code of Conduct ... to instruct administrators that would be the appropriate code to use.”
The school system also plans to pilot a new program, Aspire, at J.P. Ryon and J.C. Parks elementary schools. The program would identify students who demonstrate “extreme behaviors” and provide intensive counseling and coping strategies in a therapeutic learning environment before students are returned to the
regular classroom. It would also create a team of psychologists and behavior specialists who will observe classrooms and make recommendations to teachers regarding behavior management strategies, as well as provide system-wide professional development.
“The goal of Aspire is to provide therapeutic supports and interventions for students who are experiencing severe behavioral challenges,” Hollstein said. “We need to provide them with strategies for how to deal with frustrating times in