Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What the Joplin R-8 Administration is not telling you, part two- discipline

(From Oct. 14, 2013) Discipline problems are down in the Joplin R-8 School District.

If you don't believe it, just check the statistics. Of course, as those of us who work or have worked in the school district know, statistics mean what you want them to mean.

If you want the suspensions and referrals to go down, you change the way you handle discipline- if you handle it at all.

The improvement in discipline was cited in the Joplin R-8 School District's Race to the Top application and is noted in the U. S. Department of Education's critique of that application.

One way those statistics go down is to encourage teachers not to write referrals, not matter what the provocation.

If a child is out of control, the new way of thinking goes, it is not the child's fault, but the teacher's.

We learned at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year what kinds of things were no longer sufficient to send someone to the office at East Middle School. We were given a list of offenses that were to be handled in the classroom or by the grade level teams. Those behaviors, which not too long ago would have brought an immediate trip to the office included the following:

-Disruptive behavior
-Misbehaving for a substitute teacher
-Throwing objects (unless there is an injury. It is no longer you could put someone's eye out; you actually have to put the eye out)
-Searching pornographic sites on the internet

Check the list on the accompanying photo. There are many more.

The actual discipline was thrust upon the grade level teams. This was what we had to go through to be able to send a student to the office during the 2012-2013 school year:

1. After the third classroom referral (those do not show up in the statistics), the students were called in to the meet with the eighth grade teachers.

2. The fourth one is a freebie.

3. After the fifth classroom referral, we were required to call the student's parents and let them know there is a problem.

4. The sixth one is a freebie.

5. After the seventh classroom referral, the student was sent to the office.

When we talked with the students and their parents, we let them know that after that seventh referral, the punishment would be strict since they had used up seven opportunities.

When people finally started teaching transgression number seven, we discovered we had unknowingly been lying to the students.

The students were not receiving any serious disciplinary measures at all, though they had received seven classroom referrals. Sometimes it was a one-hour detention; sometimes it was just a friendly conversation.

The matter was addressed in an October 2012 e-mail to the assistant principal from eighth grade team leader Brian Neugebauer:

A few of our students have been given office referrals once they have had 7 classroom referrals and sent to you as a result.  I feel the need to tell you that the 8th grade team is dissatisfied with the results of those office referrals from the office.

Last year we agreed to take on the task of extra task of managing MIR's, now classroom referrals, so long as once we sent student to the office they received a formidable consequence.  However, we have received a few referrals back with "One hour ASD" assigned as the consequence.  Our team finds this unacceptable.  Last year we agreed to have the first office referral result in a 3 hour ASD or similar consequence, why this year has it been downgraded to a One hour ASD?  When we talked at the start of year I recall agreeing to the same terms as last year.

If the teachers have taken on the extra task of managing the classroom referrals, talking with students, talking with parents, setting up conferences and the like, the first office referral warrants more than a One hour ASD.  We have been telling the students that once they get 7 classroom referrals they will receive a major consequence if the office gets involved as a deterrent, but now we have been made to look foolish as students tell their friends they only received one hour ASD.

If we need to talk more we can, but for not we really need to upgrade the 1st office referral and the following referrals to a more severe consequence otherwise we question if the time we are putting into this is even worth it.  After all, in this system students have already been warned several times by teachers before they get to you, which needs to be kept in mind when assigning consequences.  

At that point, we had been told that once the student had received that seventh referral, that on each subsequent referral, the student would be sent to the office. That also changed. We were notified that we had to give whatever "the intervention" was time to work. If a student was sent to the office in the third hour, and then received classroom referrals for disruptive behavior in the fourth, fifth, and sixth hours, there would be no office referral- we had to give the principal's intervention time to work.

It did not take long for the students to learn that being sent to the office wasn't any worse than receiving a classroom referral. Neither had any teeth.

It made things tough for younger teachers and it made it a nightmare for substitute teachers.

We were all told that if someone was out of control we could send the person to the office, Some teachers became frustrated when the students were back in the classroom before the hour ended. Before long, the number of those students being sent to the office began to decrease and teachers were forced to spend more time trying to deal with situations that would never have been tolerated in years past.

My last year, before it was so rudely interrupted, was a good one. I had not written an office or a classroom referral. The only referral I wrote came as a result of an after-school incident. I was in the hallway when I saw a seventh grade girl walk up to another seventh grade girl and without any provocation, slapped her in face, a slap I could hear all the way down the hall. I stepped in, took down the information, made sure the two girls were not going to be on the same bus headed home and then did the paperwork.

That was probably an error on my part since the referral showed up on the school's statistics. I am glad I did it though, so I could take a stance against teenage bullying.

I am sure the one-hour lunch detention the girl served put her on the right path.

This obviously has been geared to the discipline at one school, East Middle School. I would be interested in hearing the experiences parents, students, and teachers have had at other Joplin R-8 schools (teachers, remember to remain anonymous), or in other school districts.

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