School districts are adopting new strategies for managing bad behavior management strategies. Just as in law enforcement, schools are reevaluating who is being targeted and why.
The Miami Herald reports that a new approach to discipline in Miami-Dade schools will require extensive retraining and a massive culture change. The district has 36,000 suspensions. They have taken a multi-pronged strategy.
Florida has the highest suspension rate (14%) in the nation. Alternatives to suspension in other areas are related to increased graduation rates and a decline in the number of arrests.
The new program builds on the approach initiated in Broward County. It requires more counselors, specific character development instruction, and an overhaul of the student code of conduct.
The alternatives offered in Miami-Dade include:
- Success Academies: Nine schools from elementary to high schools offer voluntary tutoring and financial literacy lessons on Saturdays and other non school days. Over 800 students participated on a single day.
- Character development: Each year schools will begin with lessons in character traits. Teachers will follow up each month with an emphasis on specific traits like cooperation and citizenship.
- Power U: A restorative justice pilot program will launch in two schools to bring together small groups, including perpetrators and victims, to resolve disputes.
- School Within a School: Students who have attendance problems and other support needs will be grouped into smaller classes. Intensive programs will include counselors and a service learning curriculum that focuses on community work and self reflection.
Broward County had the highest rate of suspensions, and the district tackled the problem. Alachua County has about 3400 out of school suspensions, fewer than the state average, but still a high percentage. What is striking is that here, the rate of suspensions varies not only across schools, it varies within schools from one year to the next. The district has a strategic goal of reducing suspensions by ten percent. They did not make it this year.
How each county handles these problems would make interesting local studies.