Madison school board delays implementing Cheatham’s discipline changes

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The Madison Metropolitan School District’s board of education delayed implementing changes Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham calls key to making the district’s discipline policy, known as the Behavior Education Plan, work effectively.

Cheatham told board members based on staff, student, parent and community feedback, changes can be made to correct massive misunderstandings surrounding the BEP, such as disruptive or unsafe students being kept in classrooms and teachers being unable to ask students to leave their class.

The proposed changes include:

Educate staff on how progressive discipline works
Clearly define consequences Look at root cause of student’s discipline problem Better use of support teams
Teachers need to be more welcoming when a disciplined student returns to class Suspensions for 4K-third grade allowed
Clarifies alcohol and drug policy, including difference between buying/selling marijuana

“We’re trying to be much more responsive to the specific behavior,” Cheatham said. “That means at many schools they have a strategy in place where students may just take a break.”

Cheatham said a disruptive student taking a short break in another classroom is just one example of many strategies the district has ready to implement.

Teachers offering public testimony were visibly upset and filled with anger about the BEP. One said often times support staff is not responding to calls for help. Another said there is now a small core group of bad students, who through their behavior simply do not take the plan seriously, and some of her students are now scared to attend school.

Cheatham said the issue comes down to training and communication. The hard deadline given to the board for approval was June 1. The board has not said if there will be a special meeting.