BELOIT - The School District of Beloit may be offering pilot programs within some facilities to improve discipline as early as February, according to Interim Superintendent Donald Childs in an interview Thursday.
Childs gave an update on the progress of the ad hoc committee for governance and student discipline, launched in the fall to improve learning environments in the schools. The committee plans to have a proposed draft of a new student code of conduct ready for the board's review by spring. In the meantime, Childs said the elementary, intermediate and high school subcommittees are being encouraged to try out pilot programs to improve discipline for the remainder of the school year.
Childs said he proposed the committee early this fall, and the board approved it.
"We are required to review the code of conduct annually, and given that there have been community-wide concerns about student discipline, and given that I've observed that there is detailed description of a lengthy list of violations, but very little guidance for teachers, principals and administrators on what to do about them, I feel we need to address these issues," Childs said. "Moreover, there are age differences that may require different responses at different levels."
The committee held one organizational meeting, and the three subcommittees - elementary, intermediate and high school - have been meeting regularly. The second general meeting for the overall committee was held Wednesday.
The committee is comprised primarily of staff but also has parents, administration, board member John Wong, Childs and school resource officers serving on it. Members are discussing challenges as well as brainstorming possible solutions.
Wong said the committee is also re-examining Beloit's code of conduct as it reviews other school districts' codes.
The subcommittees are focusing on issues pertinent to grade levels.
"The behavior and consequences for kids in first grade should be different than kids in tenth grade," Wong said.
Wong said the code has room for improvement and committee members are working to give more specific guidelines for teachers, administration and students. Student resource officers have also been a big part of these conversations.
As part of the code of conduct review, the committee will be creating guidelines to determine when a child would be removed from the classroom.
Wong said the committee is committed to helping all students. Some disruptive students, he said, may be acting out because they don't understand what is going on in the classroom as they have fallen behind and may need extra assistance or a non-traditional learning environment.
Childs said the existing code of conduct is complete in terms of identifying misbehaviors and defining penalties. However, he said it doesn't give any guidance to teachers who are expected to deal with some behaviors on their own or to principals when the incident goes beyond the teacher level.
"We want more specificity in the guidance when particular types of behaviors occur, the consequences and when to involve parents and other resources such as social workers and counselors," Childs said.
Childs said he has shared with the committee how there needs to be education in addition to consequences and penalties. While some characteristics such as fear, anger and surprise are hardwired into the human brain, traits such as empathy, respect, patience and cooperation are taught. He cited the neuroscience information from the book "Teaching With Poverty In Mind" by Eric Jensen.
"With over 80 percent of our kids coming from homes in poverty, you have a lot of parents who don't have the time or resources to be teaching those things on a regular basis in all of our homes," Childs said.
Childs said there are conversations about how to teach those skills in an age-appropriate and continuous manner.
Childs commended the people who chose to become involved in the new committee to help the district, particularly parents.
Committee members include: Amber Ball, Yvette Hansen, Cristina Douglas, Jamie Harrison, Tasha Latin, Monica Garrett, Maira Ramos, Kelly Olson, Melody Wirgau, Joe Vrydaghs, Brandye Hereford, Devon LaRosa, Annie Anderson, Sara Webster, Amber Mayfield, Misty Burnett, Daniel Martinez, Eric Moen, Jen Paepke, Orlando Ramos, Andee Douglas, Shana Listenbee, Tina Goecks, Laurie Medina, Emily Pelz, John Wong, Mark Smith, Deb Prowse, Ken Davis, Barb Greyson, Noe Mar-Garcia, Tony Capozziello, Chris LaBrie, Terry Schindler and Mike Wagner.