Instilling School Discipline Task Force Progress Report Due

Article excerpt

After three months of research, a task force charged by the

Duval County School Board with identifying ways to change

student behavior will make its first report Tuesday to the

board.

Mandarin parent Nita McKelvey, who chairs the discipline task

force, said she'll tell board members how the 21 parents,

teachers, students and principals are getting down to the

business of crafting specific recommendations.

"There's a real serious desire by this task force to want to do

something about discipline in this county," McKelvey said.

Task force members met yesterday for six hours to identify the

areas they want to address, then broke off into three committees

to tackle solutions. Among the issues they'll address:

Revising the student code of conduct. Several members said the

code isn't being consistently enforced, particularly with

respect to how administrators handle minor offenses such as

defying a teacher, having cigarettes or fighting. They discussed

requiring principals to refer students with a set number of

offenses to alternative schools.

Principals on the board don't like the idea. Mandarin Middle

School Principal Walter Carr said principals need the

flexibility to deal with cases individually.

Recommending changes in the district's two alternative schools.

Several members said the schools are too crowded and students

should be separated more by age and type of offense. Members may

recommend a third school be built.

They'll also be looking at improving the outdoors work program

for middle school students -- called "The Woods" -- that's being

implemented in the district this year.

Implementing prevention programs sooner and requiring parental

involvement. Several members want to bring back a program that

teaches students in grades K through 12, and their parents,

about communication, dealing with anger and self-esteem. Called

"Student Option for Success," the program was cut several years

ago for funding reasons.

Other recommendations they'll look at include requiring student

uniforms and more training in classroom management for middle

school teachers, both ideas favored by several members.

The task force, formed in November, faces an April 1 deadline

to make final recommendations to the board.

"We can't solve everything in five months but we can identify

problems and some suggestions," said parent Nancy Broner. "Then

it will be up to the School Board."

Members have been meeting weekly, spending hours cloistered in

a conference room studying the student conduct code and

reviewing programs to help troubled kids.

Members like Landmark Middle School student Dolly Penn have

toured the district's alternative schools and surveyed teachers

and principals about student discipline. …

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