Madison school district hopes to join national education movement

New policy will counteract negative behavior, limit number of suspensions, expulsions
Madison school district hopes to join national education movement

The Madison Metropolitan School District is hoping to join a national education movement that will change the status quo when it comes to school discipline.

MMSD Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said it’s time the district changes its way of thinking.

“Rather than rely on punishing students when they misbehave, let’s focus on when students behave well and reinforce the positive behavior,” Cheatham said.

Under the new student discipline policy, the district would spend $1.6 million worth of resources on staff and extra development for positive behavior support. The funds would go toward providing students with resources and strategies to counteract negative behavior and limit the number of suspensions and expulsions district-wide.

Cheatham said that under the proposed plan, teachers will set clear expectations for students, and if that is done correctly it will limit the number of students who misbehave.

“The new behavior plan, it doesn’t eliminate consequences. They still exist and there are still situations that will warrant an out-of-school suspension or, in some very extreme cases, an expulsion. But every consequence has to be paired with an intervention,” Cheatham said.

The district’s Behavior Report for the 2012-2013 school year showed that under the zero tolerance policy, students grades six through nine were more likely to be suspended compared to other age groups.

Dean Loumos, a school board member, said some are raising concerns about the disparities in which students are disciplined.

MMSD statistics show the majority of school suspensions affect multi-ethnic students, with African American students eight times more likely to be suspended than white students.

Loumos said taking any child out of the classroom is not a solution for bad behavior.

“Those things start happening to kids at those ages. There is a high probability they don’t just not graduate, they go to prison,” Loumos said.

The proposed behavior plan identifies 14 schools that may need additional support and resources to implement the new policy if passed.

Schools that need more support from the district would receive funding for social workers, psychologists and external support if needed.