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New Denver Public Schools discipline system isn’t embraced by all

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Discipline policies in Denver Public Schools have been praised as models for other districts across the country, but in a couple of recent cases, relatives of students have questioned whether the softer approach is protecting their kids.

In one, parents at Denver’s Edison Elementary went to police themselves to report a fourth-grader who they said threatened to bring a gun to school after Edison officials decided not to report the incident.

In a second case, a grandmother reported a year’s worth of bullying of her granddaughter at Godsman Elementary to police because she felt school officials were not taking it seriously.

In both cases, questions were raised about a 2-year-old DPS policy that advocates a restorative approach to trouble in school, in which an offender learns from a mistake and makes amends, rather than the old punitive approach.

It was implemented after a 2008 push from Padres Unidos and other community groups, which said zero-tolerance policies were creating a school-to-jail track. Discipline in DPS at the time seemed to be disproportionately applied to minority students.

The new policy lists behavioral problems and categorizes them in five groups. Each type or category of offense has a corresponding intervention and range of possible consequences.

Using cellphones in class, pushing a student and using profanity are on the lowest category of offenses. Teachers are instructed to listen to students and counsel them, attempting to settle the problem without going to the administration. They also are instructed to use and document at least one intervention.

According to data from the district, which is complete only for one year under the new policy, in 2009-10, there were more incidents in schools that required discipline attention, but the number of students who misbehaved decreased, and so have expulsions and referrals to

Read more: New Denver Public Schools discipline system isn’t embraced by all – The Denver Post

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  • comment avatar Sam E May 21, 2011

    Schools should stay out of the discipline business. Small stuff should be reported to Parents, if nothing is done by them and behavior continues, throw them out of school for awhile. Coddling the spoiled brats won’t work.

  • comment avatar Sid James May 21, 2011

    Schools have no option to “stay out of the discipline business”.

    How and to what extent it is done is the question at hand.

  • comment avatar Ronald Marshall May 21, 2011

    We have come a long way in the country with school discipline, what is this “restorative justice model” that they speak of? You know school discipline used to be called corporal punishment. You do something contrary to school rules or just plain stupid, and you would get a nice wood board across your backside. To me that was deterrent enough. The only thing “restored” was a since that I would not do that action again.

    Now the system has failed these kids and the parents have too, by not using corporal punishment on these unruly kids, but they would rather give them dangerous amounts of drugs to control their behavior, which in a lot of cases these kids have end up killing themselves while taking this stuff.

    So please parents and school administrators, “a well whipped (a)ss is a terrible thing to waste” on an unruly child!!! It will help us as a society if we get back to this.

  • comment avatar CoLo May 21, 2011

    This is a joke! It’s also a painfully obvious attempt to lower referral number so the administration can say they have improved problematic behavior in their schools. Of course, it only turns the schools into seriously dangerous environments where repeat offenders regularly bully others and constantly disrupt the learning environment. I don’t live in the DPS area, but if I did, there’s no way I’d send my kids to any of these schools.

  • comment avatar Dorothy E May 21, 2011

    “We have to get to young people sooner and teach them tolerance and respect.”

    Before they learn to hate? It falls to the whole community (village).

  • comment avatar Eric N May 21, 2011

    Trying to standardize discipline in schools is an impossible task. The first clumsy attempt was with the zero-tolerance policies that were (rightly) heavily criticized for being too arbitrarily harsh, such as expelling students for accidentally coming to school with a pocket knife. This system, though, seems to be an over-correction the other way.

    In an ideal world, the teacher would be encouraged to send children to the office whenever they were being disruptive or breaking the rules in any way, and the administrative staff would investigate and levy an appropriate punishment based on the facts of the individual case and the history of the student or students involved. Unfortunately the administration is too lazy and too concerned with making themselves look good, so they push the burden on to the teachers, who already have too much to do and aren’t trained for that sort of thing anyway.

    None of this is helped by the fact that every parent thinks their own precious little snowflake should be given a slap on the wrist for bringing weapons to school and pistol-whipping nerds, while the neighbor’s little brat should be hanged in the public square for chewing gum in class.

  • comment avatar Mike K May 21, 2011

    If a teacher can’t handle the incident of a student using a cell phone , pushing another student or cussing, they should look into another line of work. If it’s a habitual thing though then yes, they should be sent to the office to first speak with the Principal, VP, or the psychologist/social worker.

    In regards to the topic of the 4th grader threatening to bring a gun to school, as long as they did an assessment of the child and found that they didn’t have the ability/means to actually bring a gun, then there was no need to report it.

  • comment avatar Gr8tfuldude May 21, 2011

    I know that I went to school back in the stone age, but I remember a kid getting caught playing his Mattell electronic football game in class and the teacher promptly smashed the thing. When did we go from that level to tolerating cellphones in class???

  • comment avatar Mike K May 21, 2011

    You mean from destroying someones personal property to telling them to put it away or confiscate it? Hopefully a long time ago. I don’t have a problem with kids having a cell phone in school as long as it’s put away in their bag or desk. I also don’t have a problem if the teacher wants to deduct their grade if they use it in class.

  • comment avatar Steve May 21, 2011

    So we are going to ask teachers who can’t seem to teach kids to add and subtract under the current system to be a conflict resolution specialist as well?

    What do you say we toss the trouble makers out so the kids who want to learn can. It’s the parent’s responsibility to deal with their trouble maker and there is no reason why the rest of the kids education should suffer because of them. Perhaps when some of these people discover they can’t unload their problems on the school they will try a novel approach called parenting.

  • comment avatar Gerald S May 21, 2011

    There will always be people in authority that lack common sense or haven’t heard the whole story. My oldest was set to be expelled from middle school for unauthorized use of the internet. Which may be appropriate. But he ordered lunch to be delivered and had the money to pay for it. Expulsion seemed absurd. My middle son was lightly disciplined for hitting another child on the school bus. The other childs mom was outraged. She called a conference at school. She took her turn first and was clearly unhappy. We then took our turn and asked her child what he was doing when my middle son hit him. The answer was that he was beating my youngest son. It helps to get the whole story.

  • comment avatar Ken V May 21, 2011

    Every teacher has to have good “classroom management.” This means “front line” contact with every incident. Disruptive behavior in class sometimes can be handled on the spot or have to go all the way to the District Attorney. The teacher is given the responsibility for all the children in her/his purview, even in the hallway. How can it be otherwise?

    The law, by the way is clear. “In loco parentis” means a burden and a charge to school personnel even including the school custodian.

  • comment avatar ColoCyclist May 21, 2011

    So, if you can’t get some students to follow the rules, then you change the rules? That is exactly what DPS has done. Tell me, how will this prepare these children for the future? This doesn’t even prepare them for a speeding ticket!

  • comment avatar Gary H May 21, 2011

    This is exactly what’s wrong with discipline in schools today. This is a pacifist approach that does not set standards of behavior and ramifications for violations. It’s nothing more than a cop out. Children need specific rules of behavior to follow and significant ramifications for not following the rules if they’re ever going to learn what is and what isn’t acceptable behavior.

    Who ever came up with this approach needs to be sent packing for they are part of the problem.

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