Expulsions in the Kern High School District have dropped dramatically since 2013, however there’s much work to be done fully implementing a systematic approach to improving overall school climate and correcting student behavior, district leaders said during a meeting Tuesday.
Expulsions in the KHSD have dropped 68 percent since 2013 overall. Among black students, they’ve dropped 50 percent, and among Hispanic students 74 percent, according to data shared Tuesday at a community forum.
That forum, which had a turnout of about 100 people, was the first of its kind required by the settlement terms of a lawsuit alleging KHSD engaged in a years-long pattern of discriminatory disciplinary practices against minority students.
Principals, district leaders, attorneys from both sides and educational consultants attended the meeting, along with scores of community members. No trustees were at the district offices, where the meeting was held.
During the forum, KHSD Director of Student Behavior and Supports outlined Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, a systems approach being implemented across district campuses for establishing social culture and individualized behavior supports needed to achieve both social and academic success for students.
The idea is that when a student acts out, instead of immediately creating a punishment, those involved will stop to question why the student acted out, then attempt to find a solution to keep it from happening again.
In many cases, there’s deeper issues to student misbehavior, Jon Eyler, Founder and CEO of Collaborative Learning Solutions, a consulting group contracted by the district, said.
But that type of approach has some parents and teachers worried.
Annmarie House, who was following the meeting through The Californian’s Facebook Live broadcast, said the approach creates a system that doesn’t hold students accountable.
“It's creating these children (who will be our leaders) that they don't have consequences. That's simply not true! We're not doing these kids any favors by simply allowing them to be disrespectful and out of control. We're setting them up for failure!” House wrote.
Eyler addressed a similar situation: what does a teacher do if a student cusses them out?
“Problem solving comes to mind. Why is there a need to use that language? There’s something that triggers that student to use that language, and the student knows it’s inappropriate,” Eyler said. “My approach is to do some digging to find out the reason for it. More of a restorative approach. It’s not saying you can’t impose a consequence in terms of behavioral guidelines, but it has to be paired with intervention – not just consequence. We know that doesn’t change behavior long-term.”
And that’s something teachers are struggling with, said Terry Chapman, a Bakersfield High School teacher who attended Tuesday’s forum.
He spoke about frustrations staff members have in lag time getting PBIS fully implemented. Students with behavioral issues are sent out of class, then come back with no intervention.
“We jumped the gun on eliminating consequences, so now there’s a big gap … and that’s our biggest concern right now. It makes it difficult for teachers in the learning environment,” Chapman said. “Our expulsions and suspensions are skewed because behavior hasn’t changed.”
Mendiburu said some of that information “stings,” but part of PBIS implementation is hearing hard truths and having “frank conversations.”
“There has been some resistance both internal and external,” Mendiburu said. “It’s something we need to wrestle with in implementation.”
The next KHSD Community Forum on school climate takes place Jan. 30, 2018.