Discipline plan aims to keep students in class, officials say

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 16, 2000

This year, teachers in the Natchez-Adams School District can call on a playground term to help control discipline problems – time out.

Under a new district-wide discipline plan, teachers and administrators have a step-by-step procedure for dealing with problems that district officials say will keep students from being suspended and going home – where they won’t be learning.

&uot;You might get suspended from the high school, the middle school and the alternative school, but you won’t go home that easily,&uot; Superintendent Dr. Carl Davis said.

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If students in second through eighth-grade commit a minor offense – such as not obeying an adult’s request, not obeying classroom rules or creating a minor classroom disruption – they will be sent for a brief time-out in the classroom of a team teacher.

Students cannot return to the regular classroom until complying with the teacher or completing their classroom assignments.

&uot;The whole purpose is to remove the student from the situation,&uot; said Assistant Superintendent Mary Kate Garvin. &uot;Children tend to feed off of one another.&uot;

The district is forming Teacher Support Teams made up of social workers, counselors and veteran teachers to assist teachers in classroom management.

But students who receive three time outs – or fewer depending on their age – will be sent to in-school detention to do assigned class work. Students cannot return to the regular classroom until work is completed.

They will also be required to attend Saturday School to do their class work if the time spent at in-school detention causes them to fall behind in other subjects.

If students do not do their class work or if they cause a disruption in in-school detention, they will be moved to a class called Positive Choices to do their course work for at least three days.

Positive Choices is a program that allows students who would otherwise be suspended to stay in school where they can learn. Students in Positive Choices will also be taught social skills. They will be isolated from their peers during lunch and restroom breaks. They also cannot take part in extra-curricular activities.

The length of time in Positive Choices will increase if behavior does not improve, and each school will have a Positive Choices class.

Garvin said teachers are going to be assisted with this plan.

&uot;Teachers are not going to be stuck with children misbehaving in their class all day and not getting any support,&uot; she said.

The district is training teachers on the new plan and teaching them ways to better manage disruptive students.

The district is also hiring more specialists to assist teachers and also forming a safe school center at its Multipurpose Building to hold after-school programs such as conflict resolution and character building.

It also is implementing character education into its physical education program for all students, Davis said.

For high school students, the plan will work much the same.

Ninth to 12th-graders will first be placed in in-school detention for the rest of a class period for minor offenses such as tardiness, classroom disruption or noncompliance with adult requests, said Natchez High School Principal Brenda Williams.

If students do not complete a required assignment within 24 hours of being placed in in-school detention, high school staff will send the students to one day of Saturday School to complete the work.

Parents can be charged with educational neglect if their children do not show up for assigned Saturday School, Davis said.

For all students in the district, those who commit severe offenses will go straight to Saturday School or Positive Choices or suspension and skip the intermediary steps

For some serious offenses, such use of obscene language to an adult, fighting or bringing a weapon, alcohol or drugs to school, students can be immediately suspended pending a discipline hearing.

If they are allowed to return to the school, they will be placed directly into the Positive Choice Program, Williams said.

Or students may be sent to the alternative school or eventually to a Youth Court school.

School district officials have been working with Youth Court Judge John Hudson to develop a class at Youth Court for students who would normally be suspended. This is to prevent students from misbehaving just so they can get out of school and stay at home, Davis said.

Some teachers have received the plan well, although with reservations.

Judy Brewer of Morgantown Elementary said she is open to the new concept. &uot;I’m willing to try anything that will help us out,&uot; she said.

But she expects it will require teachers to redirect and rethink some of their thinking methods. She also said she worries about some of the logistics of the new plan such as transporting students from site to site or getting them out of a classroom immediately when necessary.