After a series of meetings spanning nearly three months, a Jefferson County Public Schools committee tasked with reworking the district’s code of student conduct is ready to present its revisions to the Board of Education for approval.
Composed of school administrators, teachers, parents and a student, the committee was assembled to refine the code of conduct in a way that would decrease suspension rates—keeping students in class while maintaining a safe school environment.
The main revisions include reducing the maximum number of days a student can be suspended for certain violations and giving administrators the option to employ parent conferences or restorative practices in other cases that were once automatic suspensions.
Other changes include the restructuring of language within the nearly 40-page code of conduct to reflect the disciplinary direction of the district.
When it comes to creating a safe school, research has proven that “there is no such thing as a punishment that equals safer schools,” assistant superintendent John David Marshall said.
“A code of conduct will never keep a school safe,” he said. “A culture of inclusion and understanding and equity and fair process will keep a school safe.”
Reducing the amount of suspensions was a main factor when discussing revisions to the code of conduct.
More than 13,000 suspensions were issued in 2012-2013 to JCPS students, according to data provided by JCPS.
Marshall said keeping kids in class rather than suspending them is vital for the education process.
He said the goal of the revisions is to keep more students in class more often and “there is a lot more that needs to be done.”
Board member Linda Duncan is a member of the committee and she said it wasn’t the code that needed revision, but rather the way it is implemented.
“We could have left everything just how it was and done something with training,” she said. “To me, that is what really needed to happen.”
Marshall said teachers and administrators will participate in an “intense” training session prior to the next school year in effort to ensure consistency in regards to administering discipline measure related to the code of conduct.
“Were going to look at every infraction and say, ‘This is what qualifies as misbehavior, this is what qualifies as assault, this is what a fight is,’” he said. “We have to be very, very deliberate and very, very in depth.”
Duncan said training on how to properly implement the code of conduct is “way overdue.”
“Especially for our assistant principals at the elementary level,” she said.
Here are some of the specifics of the proposed changes:
- Eliminating the Suspension Truancy Off-Site Program, or STOP, from the code of conduct.
- Adding emphasis on Restorative Practices and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support, or PBIS.
- Limiting short-term suspensions to a maximum of 3 days (currently it is 5 days).
- Limiting long-term suspensions to a maximum of 10 days (currently it is 20 days).
- Changing the language of long-term suspension to Board Suspension.
- Including a definition for fighting.
All of the revisions must first be approved by the Jefferson County Board of Education before they go into effect.
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