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Committee seeks strategies for discipline issues

By Rebecca Rider

rebecca.rider@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Ideas flew around the table Wednesday afternoon as the Rowan-Salisbury School System discipline committee sought to find answers to disciplinary issues. The committee’s aim is to have clear, concise goals for the 2016-17 school year.

Carol Ann Houpe, director of student services, introduced multi-tiered systems of support, a new framework being rolled out by the state. Rowan-Salisbury is expected to implement the new system by fall this year. The overlapping tiers of the framework ensure that a student is receiving support on core issues, even if the student is also receiving intensive support. Unlike pre-existing frameworks the system has, this multi-tiered approach is holistic, focusing on behavior and academics.

“So when we’re looking at a particular child we’re looking at, ‘What does this student need to be successful?’” Houpe said.

Because it’s a framework, the school system is free to decide which structures and supports to use and to include additional supports that fall outside the framework. Houpe said that the district already has several of the pieces in place, but the framework will pull everything together and provide consistency across all district schools. If a child needed additional support, teams could be pulled together to figure out strategies to improve instruction.

The system has all summer to brainstorm, and the next school year to roll out the multi-tiered system in phases.

“We are committed to doing this right,” Houpe said.

Board of Education member Travis Allen wanted to know how long it would take a child to move from tier one, which includes general education, to tier three, which provides intensive support. Houpe said that the multi-tiered system would allow a child to receive intensive support if necessary.

Cabarrus County Schools has already implemented the multi-tiered system, Houpe said.

The committee also discussed becoming a trauma-informed school system, taking each child’s struggles into account when choosing support and intervention methods. Dr. Sandra Albert, director of exceptional children’s programs, said that about 25 percent of students in Rowan County who are taken into custody by the Department of Social Services have experienced at least two adverse childhood experiences – traumas like abuse or neglect that can profoundly impact their lives and health. Rowan County’s percentage is slightly higher than the state and national average.

With more training and awareness, teachers can intervene and help ease behavior or other issues.

“When you have an understanding of why they might be behaving the way they are it might give you more insights on the interventions to use,” Houpe said.

The committee discussed components they wanted to include in the multi-tiered framework, including: use of data to analyze student behavior, staff leadership teams, implementation of a crisis or response team at every school and a restorative classroom for children who may have chronic outbursts.

Allen asked if any of this was something the system wasn’t already doing. Behavior expectations are already laid out in the system’s code of conduct, but Allen said the “no tolerance” language of the code had “no teeth to it.”

‘The Board of Education tolerates a whole lot,” he said.

Representatives from local schools chimed in to say that they would like immediate support in a crisis – both for physical altercations and immediate academic assistance. Allen and representatives pointed out that if something goes wrong in a classroom, not only is instruction time for other students lost, but it can take weeks of assessment for a child to receive additional support or an intervention.

Albert asked if every school in the district had a crisis prevention team – but no one on the committee knew for sure. They added increased professional development and de-escalation training to the list of potential recommendations for the Board of Education. Committee members suggested an entire school staff – or at least a specific team – be trained in crisis prevention and be able to respond in an emergency.

The committee will meet next on April 20 to discuss alternatives to school suspension.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.

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