MMSD staff want district to reevaluate its disciplinary policy

In light of the story that News 3 Now broke Wednesday regarding the Jefferson Middle School student who shot another student with a BB gun and threatened to kill everyone in the school, staff members want the district to evaluate its current disciplinary policy. To protect the identity of the staff members, News 3 Now is redacting their names.

After learning that the Jefferson student had 25 previous behavioral issues on their record, some were questioning the district’s current disciplinary policy that was put in place under former superintendent, Jen Cheatham.

“Teachers and staff are very frustrated,” an MMSD staff member said.

An MMSD staff member said the policy makes it almost impossible for a student to be expelled for their behavior.

“This approach seems to be one of continually reintroducing kids into their classroom when they’re just not ready to be there,” they said. They’re not ready to learn alongside their peers.”

Under the current disciplinary policy the district has in place, a student’s bad behavior can be classified under different levels of punishment.

MMSD spokesperson Tim LeMonds said, “Our approach, the Behavior Education Plan, is rooted in teaching and learning. We set clear, high expectations for students and we match that with high levels of support so that students can meet that high bar. Under the Behavior Education Plan, most behaviors are responded to at a lower level the first time they occur and then progress to a more intensive response if they repeat.”

Some educators say the policy isn’t working for everyone and that some students are allowed to return to the classroom without any change in behavior, making their jobs “almost impossible.”

LeMonds said in a statement, “All staff receive training and resources for creating positive classroom climates and addressing behavior in the classroom. This includes training on the foundational practices outlined in the BEP. All of our schools have systems in place allowing teachers to reach out for additional support and problem-solving in response to classroom behaviors.”

One MMSD staff member said students need to have access to better behavioral support resources to really see a change in behavior by tackling the reason they are acting out.

“They have mental health needs or they’ve experienced trauma or they have a disability. Often times, they have needs that can’t be met in a regular school environment as structured and they need more. They may need smaller class sizes, they may need more one on one attention, they might need more mental health care. They just need something different and something more.”

LeMonds responded saying, “Research shows that behavior change takes time. We believe in teaching and intervention over consequences and punishment. We want to respond to behavior in a way that is just and equitable. Our efforts to address behavior are grounded in research and evidence-based practices.”

Staff members said they would still like to see a different approach because they say the district’s policy isn’t working to effectively change students’ behaviors.

“I think what the district needs to do is take a good hard look at the children that are continually not experiencing success in regular school environments and come up with different solutions and different ideas.”

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