Beloit parents concerned about behavior, discipline problems in classrooms

Parents say student learning is affected
Beloit parents concerned about behavior, discipline problems in classrooms

As many parents share examples of chaotic situations that have taken place inside Beloit classrooms, the school board is looking to make changes.

Parents like Beth Harmon said their students’ teachers face tough classroom environments.

“Jimmy has come home and has addressed to me that his one teacher is completely stressed that if she takes a day off or has to do something else and comes back after a sub, she find things broken. If she tries to question or ask, they get irate, very verbal,” Harmon said.

Her 11-year-old is so concerned about his teacher, he asks his mom to send her encouraging notes.

“He has me emailing her special messages to let her know that she’s appreciated,” Harmon said.

Problem students in Jimmy’s class have affected his learning.

“He doesn’t feel very safe, and he’s worried for his teacher,” Harmon said.

Other parents said teachers throughout the district need more help in the classroom.

“If there is a teacher trying to discipline a student, all the other kids are just left to roam free or sit on their iPads to babysit them while the disruptive student is getting their problem handled,” Malissa Cronin, who has twin boys in fifth grade, said.

She said her boys have been bullied, and she’s applied for open enrollment to leave the district for three years, but has been denied every time.

“The way the kids are in the intermediate school right now, I have a feeling the behavior and the problems and the discipline is just going to get worse,” Cronin said. “So by the time they get to the high school age, students there are already fighting their teachers, hitting their teachers, throwing things, being disruptive, and it’s just going to get worse.”

Many parents feel bad for the district’s teachers.

“We have excellent teachers, and my heart goes out to them having to face the things they do,” Tia Johnson, who has a 12-year-old son, said.

Teachers brought the issue of discipline and bad behavior by students to the district’s attention at a town hall for staff on Feb. 10.

“I think it has reached a point where clearly we need to have some higher-level action planning surrounding it,” school board member Laurie Endres said.

The school board held a special meeting Monday to address some of the issues and passed three initiatives. The first was to send the code of conduct out to parents and ask them to discuss it with their students. Staff was also asked to review the material.

“Make sure that we all understand and are on the same page with the behaviors we find unacceptable and the consequences of those behaviors,” Endres said.

The school board also temporarily suspended the use of restorative practices, which is a way of interacting during conflict. Endres said it’s being interpreted as not having consequences for a student’s actions.

“I think sometimes the best way to restart a program that has sort of gone awry is to just put a stop on it and to go back to the drawing board on that,” she said.

The board also made sure the staff knew they could call police if necessary.

At the regular board meeting Tuesday, many parents came forward to share their concerns.

“We want the best for every one of our kids,” Endres said. “So any time we hear a story of a negative experience in a classroom, it’s difficult. It’s heartbreaking.”

Parents appreciated the opportunity to share.

“I’m really glad the school board had the listening session,” Johnson said. “It’s better, in my humble opinion, to have this stuff out in the open.”

Many parents said they would like to see the board make some changes or come up with a new policy.

“While we address our challenges — and they are challenges — I am optimistic that this community can come together and be better than ever as we move forward,” Endres said.

She said the topic of discipline in the classroom will most likely be an ongoing discussion at future meetings. The board meets on the fourth Tuesday of every month, but Endres said it was looking into have meetings more frequently.