Disruptive behavior by students continues to pose a challenge in Pasco County Schools — and the school district is hoping that parents and guardians can help play a role in reducing the problem.
Pasco County School Board chairwoman Megan Harding raised the issue during the board’s Nov. 7 meeting.
“Buses are being stopped because of (student) disrespect, the rowdiness on buses.
“I’ve had teachers reach out to me for behavioral expulsions, for students fighting.
“The list goes on.
“I’ve talked to Mr. Browning multiple times about this and he knows that his teachers, and staff and admin are frustrated,” Harding said.
She told Browning that she knows he’s going to continue to assess the behavior problem and she’s grateful for that.
However, she added: “But with the many disruptions we’ve had to the learning environment in the past two weeks and the number of teachers who have called, emailed or asked to meet with me about behaviors — it has grown.
“I know we need kids in school.
“But what I’m most worried about, like I’ve mentioned before, are these other kids whose learning is being impacted due to the one or two students who are misbehaving.
“I don’t have all of the answers, but I am willing to help problem-solve and work on this,” the school board chairwoman said.
“Teachers need to teach, bus drivers need to drive their bus, and our students need to go to school to learn.”
Harding continued: “Here’s my plea: Parents and guardians, we need your help.
“Students are sent to school to learn.
“In Pasco, we want your child to get that world-class education that they deserve and we can’t do this without your partnership and help.
“We’ve said it multiple times, but I’m asking you again: Please talk with your children about being respectful. Talk to your children about the importance of their education and how they’re in school to learn.
“Your child’s teacher and school love them. They just want them to be successful.
“Your child’s bus driver needs to get your child to school safely, and on time.
“So, please talk to your child and remind them of the rules of the school because we really can’t do this alone.”
Pasco County Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning chimed in.
He told Harding that her comments are both valuable and valued.
“Student behavior continues to be a challenge for us,” Browning said, particularly on buses and in classrooms.
“We, too, don’t have a solution,” the superintendent said.
“It’s easier to address the secondary students than it is to address the elementary students.
“But I will tell you, we are seeing a significant number of behavioral issues in elementary school.”
Unfortunately, he added, the problems are showing up in the kindergarten and first grade levels.
“I’m not making excuses, but I think one of the reasons that we’re seeing this is that these were what I call ‘our COVID kids’ that have not been in a structured environment.
“They’re coming into a structured classroom, where the teacher demands and deserves respect to do his or her job, that is to teach — and to love those kids.
“But I think many times these kids do not know how to behave in a public setting.”
The superintendent continued: “I make no excuses for it.”
He told Harding: “And, you are dead right.
“We, as a district, cannot successfully fulfill our mission — and that is to provide that world-class education unless, and only unless, our parents engage with us, partner with us, in order to set expectations for their children.
“And that is, ‘What does acceptable behavior look like in a classroom setting, or a school setting, a bus setting?’
“What does it look like?
“There’s got to be consequences for these kids at the home level when parents get reports that their children are acting out.
“We are struggling. We are struggling,” Browning said.
He offered to meet with Harding and with the teachers who she recommends, to help tackle the problem.
He said the district is well aware of the issue.
“My team is working tirelessly. There’s not a meeting that we have that we don’t talk in some way, shape or form, about behaviors of kids in this district.”
At the same time, it’s important to keep things in perspective, Browning said. There is just a small fraction of students who are creating disruptions for large numbers of kids.
Plus, he noted: “We’re not the only district that is dealing with this. There are districts all across Florida and all across the United States, having to deal with behavioral issues.
“We will continue to address this in every way we possibly can.”
Harding said she knows it’s just a small number of students who are disrupting others. But she said, she doesn’t want a small number of kids to impede the learning of others.
Published November 15, 2023