Parish schools set new discipline policy for fighting

Published 7:56 pm Thursday, October 28, 2021

VIDALIA — The Concordia Parish School Board on Tuesday enacted a new disciplinary policy for students. School officials said their previous policy needed to be changed after a number of fights have occurred in parish schools.

Ferriday High School Principal Kimberly Jackson said most of the student fights happened in common areas where four or more classes are put in one room together such as the gym, cafeteria and the library.

Other fights happened when teachers were not actively teaching in front of a classroom, she said, adding school administration has worked to mitigate this problem with random visits to classrooms in addition to regular teacher observations.

Jackson also said there seems to be a correlation between fights at school and teachers calling in sick and being absent.

“All of our fights occur due to a lack of supervision,” she said. “When teachers are absent, other teachers have to cover their classrooms during their free period and when four or five teachers are absent, that’s a lot of classrooms to cover.”

Previously, when students were suspended or expelled from school for fighting, their absence was counted against them as an unexcused absence, school officials said. Students who miss more than 14 days of school would be held back in the same grade.

A committee composed of school administrators, behavior interventionist Veleky Bowser, academic supervisor Gloria Price and the superintendent of Concordia Parish schools Toyua Watson came up with a plan to send students to the Concordia Education Center, the parish’s alternative school, instead of sending them home.

The committee proposed assigning the student to three days at the CEC for their first fight, five days for their second fight and then requiring them to finish out the remainder of the school year at the CEC after their third fight.

This plan provides a temporary solution while the school district continues to work on a district-wide code of conduct to adopt for the upcoming 2022-2023 school year, school officials said.

Now that the school board adopted this plan Tuesday it will go into effect immediately, officials said.

Board member Warren Enterkin offered the motion to accept the proposed discipline plan and his motion was seconded by board member Ricky Raven and it passed by a vote of 5-1 and abstention from Raymond Riley, Ph.D.

Board President Fred Butcher voted no after disagreeing with an amendment made by board member Derrick Carson to allow administrators and teachers to use their discretion as two when subsequent fights would be counted against students.

Carson said students shouldn’t be punished for a second or third offense if they were in a fight before the board adopted the new policy.

Carson also asked whether the policy would allow teachers and administrators to use their discretion to not punish students who are attacked by another student at school for defending themselves.

Jackson said teachers would continue to use their discretion and use discipline on a case-by-case basis.

Butcher said more needed to be done to mitigate the problem of teachers frequently calling in sick and not coming to work. Teachers have an allotment of 10 paid sick days off and an additional 10 COVID-19 excused absences before absences are docked from their pay, school officials said.

“We need to do something about the absence of staff members,” Butcher said.

Butcher suggested that the board consider offering bonuses to teachers who do not use their paid sick leave, however, no action was taken to that effect.

Watson said when meeting with teachers about fights in schools, many were surprised to learn that the fights happened when the students would’ve been in their classroom had they not been absent.

“There were a lot of ‘aha’ moments,” she said. “I don’t think people understood the correlation between discipline and adult attendance. The first step to change is recognizing the problem and today, they all know.”

In other matters during Tuesday’s meeting, the Butcher said the school board would soon be appointing a replacement for John Bostic, who announced he would step down from the school board effective Nov. 1.

The board received two letters of interest in the position, one from Ralph Simmons and one from Niki Pere.

After the board appoints a temporary replacement, Butchers said a special election would likely be held in the spring for the school board term beginning in August. Whoever is elected would have to run again the regular election of school board members, he said.

Within 20 days of the Secretary of State’s Office sending us a letter acknowledging that we have a vacancy on the board, we will have to appoint someone to fill that position, he said.