Pasco County School Board members and union president Don Peace have cast a spotlight on a persistent problem on district campuses that they think requires more action.
They want the school district to increase its efforts and try new approaches to address disruptive and sometimes dangerous behavior by students.
During the school board’s Jan. 17 meeting, Peace, president of United School Employees of Pasco (USEP), reported that the union has been hearing about “quite a few situations where students are acting out in such a manner as to cause harm and injury to employees.
“One of the things that we collaboratively can, and should, work on is student behavior.
“No employee comes to work with the expectation of being bitten, kicked, hit or spit upon by their students.
“Together, the district and the union must take a stand on this type of behavior and protect employees and their right to perform work in a safe environment.
“As you have your district staff meetings, I would ask that student behavior, especially outbursts against employees, be examined,” Peace said, during the portion of the meeting when USEP offers remarks to the board.
School board member Cynthia Armstrong told her colleagues that she’d done an extensive review of comments in a Thought Exchange that the school district did on school safety.
Thought Exchanges are used to help the district to get a big picture look on various topics.
Armstrong noticed that concerns were raised about student behavior.
“The discipline issue is really quite disturbing to me,” Armstrong said. “I know we’ve talked about the discipline issue before. You know, discipline — it’s just getting harder and harder. I just want to make sure we don’t give up because it’s hard to do.
“It’s too important to say, ‘That’s just the way it is. That’s just the way kids are.’
“It’s not acceptable. We’ve got to figure out and not lose sight, so that students can feel safe, students can learn. And, I know we’ve reached out, saying we’ve got to get parents’ help in order to be successful.
“We can continue to do that, but whether the parents are on board or not, we have to figure out a way that we can get a handle on the discipline.”
School board member Colleen Beaudoin added: “Especially with these large class sizes, teachers really need support.”
School board chairwoman Megan Harding agreed that teachers need the district’s backing.
Armstrong added: “I know it’s resources. It takes time. It takes people to work through all the discipline issues but we just might have to make that a priority.”
Superintendent Kurt Browning noted that the district has 86,000 students and that these problems are being caused by a small fraction of students.
“We need to keep in mind that we have so many more kids in our classrooms that want to be there, that want to learn,” he said.
That being said, the superintendent agreed that the small number of students creating the problems are disruptive.
“We do need to problem-solve,” Browning said.
He said it may shock some to learn that the grade level that’s most problematic in Pasco Schools is kindergarten.
The superintendent’s theory is that these children have not been in a structured environment and when they get to school, they think they can rule the roost.
“We do need to partner with our parents. We cannot do this without Moms and Dads. We just cannot,” Browning said. “We continue to problem-solve. It’s probably the most frustrating issue that I’ve had to deal with as the superintendent in the last 10 years that I’ve been here.”
Harding noted: “It’s not even fighting at elementary. It’s disrespect and disruption.”
She added the district needs to nip those behaviors in the bud.
“If we don’t catch those behaviors in kindergarten, it’s just going to spiral, spiral, spiral, spiral. (If) We want to keep our teachers in the classroom, we need to have that backup for them,” Harding said.
Armstrong emphasize the need to take action, to make the issue a priority.
“It’s great that we’re saying it’s not a tremendous number, then maybe we can find the resources to address those kids, whether it’s alternate punishments — maybe we have to get more creative.”
Published February 01, 2023
So…when is something going to be done? It’s not just kindergarten. Put a plan in place NOW!
Wendy Miller says
I’ve been in the school system for many years. Pinellas and Pasco schools K-5, basic education and EBD self contained. One thing I’ve learned is “we can not control what happens, we can only control how we prepare and react to what has happened”. Students and staff need expectations. What comes next? We are creatures of habit and structure. Those are traits we use daily as we walk through life. Those building blocks of expectations, consequence, structure, respect, safety, and kindness. Children learn by example. The world we live in is different from the world I grew up in. Teachable moments happen every day, we must recognize them. I understand everyone has a bad day or bad mood, it’s okay. Letting our students know it’s “okay” just might helped them make the right choice.