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Joel Wright District Discipline Plan Review SPED 470
For my District Discipline Plan Review, I have reviewed the discipline plan of Urbana School District #116, as articulated in the General District Policies and Procedures 2011-2012. 2011-2012 are the only dates provided, and there is no mention of whether or not these policies or procedures are a renewal of previous ones. For this review, I will begin by providing a summary on the District’s policies and procedures on those topics closely related to discipline and punishment. Then I will proceed to discuss the roles of the different stakeholders of the District and of the influences of the principles underpinning the District’s policies. Finally, I will suggest recommendations for improving the plan in the future. Summary of Topics Topic: Bullying The district plan defines bullying as “harassing or intimidating a student based upon a student’s sex, color, race, religion, creed, ancestry, national origin, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, or other protected group status.” (p. 8) This is a relatively broad definition, and it is a positive sign that students with physical or mental disabilities are specifically protected under this definition of bullying. The district’s anti-bullying policy also covers cyberbullying. According to the plan, students are prohibited from “accessing and/or distributing at school any written or electronic material, including material from the Internet, that will cause substantial
Wright disruption of the proper and orderly operation and discipline of the school or school activities… and…creating and/or distributing written or electronic material, including Internet material and blogs, that causes substantial disruption to school operations or interferes with the rights of other students or staff members.” (p. 8) This is an admirable attempt at addressing the very serious problem of cyberbullying, which usually takes place outside of the classroom, yet has a profound impact on student behavior in the classroom and on the school grounds. However, I believe that even this progressive policy does not close the loop-hole of students bullying other students on social media outlets such as Facebook or Twitter. This is because the school requires there to be “substantial disruption to school operations,” in order to justify the school taking action. In many situations of cyberbullying, as we have seen, there is no such substantial disruption until the bullying leads to the victimized student committing suicide, or otherwise engaging in self-inflicted harm.
Topic: Prohibited Content The district plan includes a list of 16 violations of district policy that it groups all under the heading, “Prohibited Student Content.” These include, but are not limited to, violations such as drug possession, alcohol possession, tobacco possession, being under the influence while at school, and possession of a firearm or other weapon. Other violations include the use “in any manner that disrupts the educational environment or violates the rights of others” of any electronic paging device, including cellular telephones, video recording devices, and PDAs. Interestingly, a specific exception is
granted here to students with disabilities, who may use electronic devices as stipulated in their IEPs. The above violations cover instances in which there is little or no interpretation of whether or not a student has broken the district rules. These types of violations tend to be clearly identifiable and clearly enforceable: the student has brought a firearm to school or she hasn’t; a student did possess marijuana on school grounds or he did not. There are other conduct violations that are more subjective in their nature and in the ways in which they can be punished. One of these, for example, is “Disobeying rules of student conduct or directives from staff members or school officials.” (p. 10) Although the plan ought to be commended in adding specific, observable examples of what constitutes disobeying rules or directives – “refusing a District staff member’s request to stop, present school identification, or submit to a search,” – it still leaves the rule open to interpretation. This is purposeful, as every conceivable instance of disobedience cannot be articulated in a district plan. However, additional information for the student and the student’s parent or guardian regarding what does or does not qualify as disobedience would be useful.
Topic: Disciplinary Measures Fortunately, there is no “Zero Tolerance” policy for discipline within the Urbana School District. Instead, the district’s disciplinary measures exist on a spectrum, and include many checks and balances designed to prevent the inappropriate use of punishment when disciplining students for behavior violations. Following the section on “Prohibited Student Content,” it states in the plan that, “Efforts, including the use of early intervention and progressive discipline, shall be made
Wright to deter students, while at school or at a school-related event, from engaging in aggressive behavior that may reasonably produce physical or physiological harm to someone else.” (p. 11) This sentence plainly states that the primary aim of the Urbana School District’s disciplinary procedures are first and foremost designed to reduce harmful and aggressive behavior and to ensure the safety of the student body as a whole, as opposed to merely punishing students who violate the code of conduct. While it could be stated in more detail what precisely these “efforts to deter… aggressive behavior…” are, the district plan does mention both “early intervention” and
“progressive discipline.” By “early intervention,” I take the district to mean that it has in place support structures designed to identify the need for behavioral interventions with students prior to the students’ violation of official district conduct. This position is strengthened by the district’s statement that, “Behavioral interventions shall be used with students with disabilities…” (p. 29) This means that there are support systems in place within the district designed to intervene upon students who exhibit aggressive or otherwise undesirable behavior and to support them in decreasing these behaviors and in “strengthen[ing] desirable behaviors...” (p. 29) Finally, “progressive discipline” could have several meanings. In the plan, the district enumerates all possible disciplinary measures, from holding conferences and withholding privileges to the suspension and expulsion of students. What the district plan does not do is specify the exact order in which these measures occur. This is probably beneficial to the district’s discipline plan as a whole, as it allows for the implementation of intervention strategies to take place without the threat of punitive actions taking place prematurely.
For some of the more severe disciplinary measures, detailed procedures are given in the district plan. For example, students may be suspended for up to 10 days, and they may be placed in in-school suspension for up to 5 days under the proper supervision of the Building Principal. It is beneficial that the district’s most severe penalties explicitly come with several checks and balances, and it is clear that these policies are intended to be enacted only following other intervention strategies.
Topic: Required Notices and Delegation of Authority The district plan describes the rights and the responsibilities of district employees in these two, brief sections. It states that there are three conditions under which a school staff member shall immediately the Building Principal of an event. They are: 1) If the staff member observes any person in possession of a firearm on or around school grounds, 2) If the staff member observes or has reason to suspect that the event is drugrelated, and 3) If the staff member observes a battery committed against any other staff member. (p. 12) The Building Principal shall then notify local law enforcement and any involved student’s parent or guardian. All teachers and school personnel may impose any disciplinary measure except suspension, expulsion, in-school suspension, or corporal punishment. Teachers and other certified employees may also use reasonable force in order to maintain safety or for selfdefense or the defense of property. Administrators have all the same authority as other district employees, in addition to the authority to suspend a student for up to 10 consecutive school days. (p. 10)
Wright Topic: Behavioral Interventions for Students with Disabilities The Urbana School District’s stated policy towards misconduct by students with disabilities is surprisingly brief. However, it does address two key concepts: Positive
behavior supports and manifest determination. Regarding positive behavior supports, the plan states that, “Behavioral interventions shall be used with students with disabilities to promote and strengthen desirable behaviors and reduce identified inappropriate behaviors.” (p. 29) This brief statement could be interpreted a number of ways. However, I believe that it is an endorsement of the use of school-wide (or even district wide) positive behavior supports in order to increase desirable behavior among students with disabilities. The district plan has very little to say about manifest determinations, and none of what it says is said explicitly. In the plan, it is stated that, “No special education student shall be expelled if the student’s particular act of gross disobedience or misconduct is a manifestation of his or her disability.” (p. 29) This is essentially all that the district plan has to say regarding the topic of manifestation determination. There is no mention of the details of how a manifestation determination takes place, and the plan does not go into any details about why students with disabilities may have the right to be exempt from some of the disciplinary procedures that apply to students without disabilities. However, I cannot say with conviction whether or not such detailed descriptions of district procedures are necessary in this version of the district plan. Because manifestation determinations directly address only students with disabilities, it might not be appropriate to describe them in detail in a district-wide plan. On the other hand, manifestation determinations affect students without disabilities as well. For example, if a student with
a disability harms or injures a student without a disability, that injured student (and his or her family) ought to know how and why a student with a disability might be exempt from the standard disciplinary procedures.
In the introduction to the district plan, district superintendent Dr. Preston L. Williams, Jr., writes that parents and guardians can obtain all district policies and procedures by visiting the school website at www.usd116.org, or by telephoning him at (217) 384-3636. In a separate letter also included in the district plan, assistant superintendent Don Owen informs the reader that all parents and guardians have “the right and may request information regarding the professional qualification of your child’s classroom teachers…” (p. 17) Elsewhere, the plan reiterates that all certified and non-certified staff are “Highly Qualified” according to the No Child Left Behind Act, and that parents and guardians have the right to request information regarding a teacher’s qualifications by the contacting the Human Resources Department. (p. 47) Nowhere in the district plan was I able to find a description of what constitutes a “Highly Qualified” teacher, other than that it is in accord with the No Child Left Behind Act and that interested parents can contact the district for more information.
Recommendations for the Future
Wright Taken in its whole, the Urbana School District’s discipline plan is relatively progressive, and makes a concentrated effort to address many of the disciplinary topics that are at the heart of special education. As stated before, the school district endorses a positive behavior support approach to its disciplinary policies and procedures. Other
strengths of the plan, as I have discussed, include addressing cyberbullying, not following a “Zero Tolerance” disciplinary plan, and having in place behavioral intervention and support systems designed to reduce undesirable behavior and, more importantly, to encourage desirable behavior. One of the most interesting and encouraging aspects of the district’s discipline plan is its insistence on addressing and correcting student behavior, not on punishing students. The language used in the plan consistently speaks of “behavior,” “activity,” or “actions,” and very rarely identifies the students as the target of disciplinary measures. One change that I would recommend for the future of the district’s disciplinary plan are to be more specific regarding what constitutes disobedient or disruptive behavior. I understand that the district would want to leave the definition of these kinds of behavior somewhat ambiguous in order to preserve some of the authority for school professionals to act as disciplining agents. Most paraprofessionals, teachers, and principals would not want to feel that they could not discipline a student without having that student’s exact, observable behavior catalogued in the district disciplinary plan. On the other hand, having as detailed of a description as possible of what constitutes disobedience and disruptive behavior should act to improve relations between the school and the community that it serves.
Wright A second recommendation that I would make is for the plan to contain a more detailed description of manifestation determinations and their implications for all students, not merely those with disabilities. I believe that this would be in accord with the principles of inclusion, as it would inform the wider school community of what it means for a student have a disability – particularly a behavioral or emotional disability – and why that student deserves additional legal protection from unjust punishment.
SPED 470 Learning Environments I Review of a District Discipline Plan Requirement
The purpose of this assignment is to examine a discipline plan in place in a school district. Considerations of the plan’s treatment of concepts covered in the course serve as a framework for your work. The review can be done individually or by groups (Up to 4 people). Note: If you choose the “group” option, each of you will be required to sign a contract agreeing to a combined grade. No appeals on the grade will be considered.
Possible Points 1. Provide information about the overall plan. Date issued. Revision date(s) if known. 2. Summarize the plan’s major components. Rationale. Topics addressed. Categories of behavior included. Procedures. 3. Discuss how the plan is operationalized. How are stakeholders informed of the plan? What training is provided to teachers, paraprofessionals, school staff, and parents? 4. 4. Discuss the plan vis a vis the models introduced in this course. How do you perceive the plan reflecting key principles of the models? To what extent are PBS principles reflected? 5. Summarize your overall appraisal of the plan. Provide specific recommendations for the plan’s “future.” What should be left alone? What should be dropped? Why? What should be modified? How?
*Please attach a copy of this checklist before handing in this assignment.