School district looks at new behavior policies

Behaviors -- good and bad -- and how to address them were the the main topics discussed during the July 22 Barnwell 45 school board meeting.
Two principals, Robbie Eubanks with Barnwell Primary School, and Senaca Baines with Guinyard-Butler Middle School, gave presentations to the board on how they  would be handling behaviors during the upcoming 2010-11 school year.
“Barnwell Primary School is proud to be a Positive Behavior Intervention School (PBIS),” Eubanks said.
The BPS teachers have been working on how to reward good behavior through its PBIS system, which the faculty received special training through the S.C. Department of Education he said.
The main focus of PBIS is to accent good behaviors to further foster its growth among the students. The system was in place in the school last year and will continue, Eubanks said.
Part of that is that each day, the students recite a pledge relating to what the school expects of them behavior-wise, he said.
“Every student recites the pledge every morning,” Eubanks said. “You have to teach the children your expectations. The teachers don’t just teach them behaviors, they model them.”
The teachers have to make lesson plans for behavior education. Also the teachers have to notify parents when their child was noted behaving well as much as when they are misbehaving, he said.
“When we are in the hallway and they see us; they straighten up. They know the expectations,” Eubanks said.
A class that corporately earned 20 good behavior points gets a special treat, like popcorn or pizza for the class. Also an individual student that earns 20 points can cash it in for a prize at the school store, he said.
Students that are having behavior problems may be paired with an adult mentor to help them or be required to check in with the office in the morning upon entering school and check out again when leaving, Eubanks said.
“We encourage teachers to discuss discipline problems with parents before sending them to the office. The office is the last resort. This way the teacher is making the initial contact,” he said.
If after three teacher contacts, the student and the problem are referred to the principal, Eubanks said.
“The teacher is the primary disciplinarian. We want the teacher to give the discipline,” he said.
If a child is suspended, a letter goes to his or her home explaining the problems and school policies, Eubanks said.
“We try to do things within three days. We don’t want to drag it out,” he said.
Eubanks said within his school of about 850 children, about 85 percent have no discipline referrals while 8.1 percent have some discipline problems and about 6 percent have reoccurring trouble.
The 6 percent is 1 percent over the state average for an elementary school. During the 2009-10 school year, 62 students were given out-of-school suspensions, he said.
“That’s not good,” he said.
Board member Rhett Richardson asked if school uniforms would help discipline and if Eubanks liked the idea.
Eubanks said he visited a Jasper County school which uses uniforms and noted it seemed to help discipline.
“There are pros and cons. I like it. Discipline dropped (in the Jasper school),” he said.
School uniforms take some of the stigma away that individual fashions can bring, although the students “hated it,” Eubanks said.
Richardson also asked if BPS students were required to answer adults with “sir” or “ma’am.”
Eubanks said it wasn’t required.
“I think it’s the tone of voice. As long as the child is respectful,” he said.
Richardson asked if Saturday school for misbehaving children was an option.
Eubanks said for that age child it probably wasn’t appropriate and that BPS no longer had all-day in-school suspension.
“You don’t want something hanging over a kid. You want to deal with it right then,” he said.
Board member Catherine Geter said that she thought Saturday school would be more appropriate for the middle school. She also asked if Eubanks had any outside resources to draw upon to help with discipline.
Eubanks said the school has an active mentoring program that has helped.
Baines gave a report on discipline efforts at Guinyard-Butler Middle School.
“I will say it’s (PBIS) working,” of his school’s work with PBIS.
“The ideology behind GBMS is to ensure the students have a safe education. Wherever they are, we have an adult,” Baines said of stationing adults in the restrooms, lunch lines and the “nooks and crannies” that students might try and hide to do mischief.
“Middle school students can be creative. When they want to get in trouble, they make a plan. You’ve got to be three or four steps ahead of them,” Baines said.
GBMS teachers are the first contact parents have when their child is behaving good or bad, he said.
Also teachers will e-mail parents about student behavior and send a copy of the e-mail to him for documentation, Baines said.
“Now if I need to contact that parent; I know and it streamlines the process,” he said.
Like Eubanks, Baines wants to keep students in class as much as possible and not in his office over a discipline problem, he said.
To do that, the school may set up student-teacher conferences or refer the student to the school counselor to discuss behaviors, Baines said.
“We are trying all kinds of means to keep kids in class. We have lunch and break detentions. We have the leverage to take something back,” he said of revoking a student’s social time during their breaks or lunch.
By having GBMS teachers call parents when students are good, it establishes communications with them if a teacher then has to report a misbehavior to a parent, Baines said.
“That way it’s not a personal attack but theteachers are trying to be fair and equitable,” he said.
Baines makes misbehaving students fill out student incident forms for a twofold reason, he said.
One, it gives a student the opportunity to be truthful, he said.
Two, it make the incident form a chance for the student work on writing and grammar, which Baines returns to the student for corrections, he said.
“There’s an opportunity in every one of these incident reports for academics,” Baines said.