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Candidate statements on discipline

We asked all of the current school board candidates for their thoughts on the school district’s discipline policies. Here are the responses we received, by district, then in alphabetical order. Note that all registered voters can vote for candidates in all districts on August 23.

School Board District 2

Diyonne McGraw

“The data shows the district’s current policies and, more importantly, the consistent and equitable application of those policies have had little impact on the condition of our schools. Many of the policies are outdated and no longer impactful relative to identifying, addressing, deterring, and adequately changing behaviors. Teachers, parents, and students are afraid, and we are all suffering from it both in classrooms and our community. Our teachers are leaving the classroom and parents are opting to remove their students and pursue other educational options. This is tragic. I developed a plan to address discipline previously. I relied heavily on information gained while obtaining my master’s degree in Special Education, as well as my experiences in behavior modification systems, and current research and best practices noted from other districts who have addressed this issue effectively. I have also engaged parents, students, and teachers in my quest for real data and collaborative problem solving because data reported has underrepresented the problems. Because I specialize in behavior, I bring to the table ideas that are both research-based and proven to work. Current policies are written from a disciplinary perspective with no intervention work or proactive methods in place and very little in terms of accountability and reconstruction of default behaviors. This is why a child can be suspended and return doing with no change in behavior. When we shift the focus from unproductive punishments to impact consequences that shift future actions, we will experience the much-needed shift in our learning environment. The way we write, apply, and respond to policy has to change. Additionally, resources must be put into meaningful alternatives to suspension that support teachers and honor the classroom but also engage parents, hold kids accountable, and provide supports through proactive practices. We do not have all of the answers and must be willing to acknowledge we are failing at this. I see the value in gaining information from outside sources. Since 2019 I have contacted schools all over the country who are doing this well and know solutions are available. If we are truly interested in making a difference, we must realign our policies and practices to those that have yield long-term results.” 

Mildred Russell

“Student behavior is a major concern in our schools. The Board has good policy regarding behavior and discipline, but lately the District has not been clear about how teachers should respond to behavior problems. We recently had a workshop in which Dr. Edwards proposed a Student Behavior Support Plan. The plan will address absence, bullying, respect, classroom disruption, and other things. Students will be expected to act kindly, respectfully, responsibly, and safely. This, of course, should always be expected of school students. Now, what should happen when they don’t? I believe that bad behavior should have consequences. Discipline should be positive, with the goal of helping a student change his/her behavior. It does not benefit a student or his/her classmates to allow misbehavior to continue.

“A. Quinn Jones, our alternate school for behavior problems, is successful in helping students overcome their challenges and returning to their school. I have requested a workshop with the Principal and Dean at A. Quinn Jones so they can tell the Board what they do to change student behavior. I am in favor of learning from those who are successful at improving student outcomes. My mission is to find what works and learn how to implement it in our schools.”

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School Board District 3

Ray Holt  

“I would say first that I have spoken to hundreds of parents, grandparents, teachers and even students in Alachua County Schools about what issue they feel is most important to be addressed or the greatest problem that we face in our schools. Without a doubt, the most common answer is discipline or behavior. Teachers tell me that they spend at least 30% of their class time dealing with disruptions which not only puts an enormous amount of pressure on them to finish their lesson plan but steals time from the other students in the class. Teachers also tell me that it has been getting progressively worse over the past four years and it is failure to follow the code of conduct that is the cause. That is step one in the solution. We can’t expect students to consistently follow the rules if our own administration won’t consistently follow them in enforcement of the rules. The administration has been discouraging teachers from holding students accountable to the code of conduct and the students have noticed. Some students have taken advantage of that mistake. And according to the teachers union, the administration hasn’t even been honest recently about how many incidents of violence against teachers there have been. No wonder we are having trouble retaining good teachers.

“In order to have a safe and effective classroom environment we must first be consistent in our enforcement of the code of conduct.

“Secondly, we need to allot our staff in such a way that we can put students who are consistently disruptive into classes with a lower student to teacher ratio, giving them the attention that they need. That will make all classrooms more effective. It may take some additional teachers and teacher assistants but opportunities for savings in the administration abound.”

School Board District 5

Kay Abbitt

“Parents and teachers throughout the district are complaining about behavior in our schools. This is major because when students misbehave in the classroom it affects the learning of all students. I was at a school board workshop this week where behavior was discussed. The plan for the 2022-2023 school year is that in addition to the Code of Student Conduct, they will be implementing PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports). PBIS is a tiered framework from which you teach students the expected behavior and recognize students who demonstrate these behaviors. I think the issue will be ensuring that students who don’t conform are given consequences. I don’t think that has been happening consistently, so that’s why behavior has become an issue.  

“My thought is that students and parents must understand that unacceptable behaviors (blatant disrespect, classroom misconduct) will not be tolerated, and that there will be consequences. Teachers need to know that administration will have their back when there are consequences given for behavior, and principals need to know the district will back them up when parents complain to the district.  This past year there were 7,015 referrals and 2,285 of those students had 5+ referrals. These are the numbers with a lot of kids who were blatantly disrespectful or disruptive not even getting a referral.  Students with referrals should have in-school suspension. In-school suspensions should be in a separate classroom with a certified teacher and a mental health counselor. Using digital hall passes would help in middle and high school with students being in hallways, gathering in bathrooms, etc.” 

  • No mention of corporal punishment?… The mention
    Of getting paddled worked in the old days.

  • There was that one board member who I doubt will be giving a statement on discipline…or character. She doesn’t have any and doesn’t understand the concept.

    • Get permission from the parent before you paddle them
      Or the kid can be sent home and suspended a few days
      To think about it and let the parent deal with it.

  • No mentionof running as an illegal candiate and then accepting a salary and not paying back. Now that is a lacke of Discipline from the Entire School Board and Alachua County Commision. Great message for the kids too! What a Fraud.

  • Wow! Talk about filling a page with “the data shows, or I developed, my experience, I have contacted” and providing absolutely no context supporting those statements! At least the other candidates provided some idea of how they would tackle current disciplinary problems in ACPS Schools. Teachers need the support of school administrators. Administrators need to take prompt corrective action. When a student is disruptive they need to be made aware of the consequences of their actions. If they are a recurring problem, the parent(s) need to address the problem and do their duty as parent and remind their child of acceptable social norms. Unfortunately, some parents need a refresher in the acceptable social norms themselves.

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