Being “sent to the principal’s office” is something students in Bryan County and Richmond Hill middle and high schools experienced less frequently this past school year.
Discipline referrals for disorderly conduct, student incivility and other minor offenses dropped 38 percent from the 2014-15 school year to the 2015-16 school year after the district implemented a Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support, or PBIS, program last fall. From 2013 to 2014, there was a 3.2 percent drop.
The district’s discipline committee gave a report on the progress of PBIS at the school board’s work session last week.
“PBIS has given the schools common vocabulary and expectations,” said Denise Scott, the school system’s PBIS coordinator. “Since PBIS, our school climate is becoming more cohesive, positive and structured. Administrators and teachers are developing a clear knowledge of implementing positive interventions in the classrooms, which have decreased office referrals and interruptions to instruction.”
Trey Robertson, the assistant superintendent of operations and student services, told the school board the program helps teachers deal with why certain behaviors occur.
“It can be frustrating when a student doesn’t have paper and pencil for the fourth time,” he said. “But rather than sending the student to the office, we’re asking ourselves why these types of behaviors occur.”
Superintendent Paul Brooksher told the board the committee is also planning professional-development sessions to help teachers learn how to deal with discipline issues as they relate specifically to students from low-income backgrounds.
“Most educators come from middle-class backgrounds,” he said. “Students from low-income families are exposed to different family norms or expectations in the home.”
Robertson said the committee began meeting in August to make sure discipline was more consistent between schools and within schools. He said rather than having a matrix of rigid punishments, Bryan County uses a warning system with a progression of discipline measures.
“Each step is a little more punitive,” he said. “We contact parents about every offense, but on the fourth offense, a student has to see a school counselor, and on the fifth offense they receive in-school suspension.”
Robertson said there is leeway, however, to look at each situation and decide what is best for the student and the school.
“If a kid has a really bad August and September, but you don’t see him again until April, that doesn’t mean you go right to ISS,” he said.