Ogden schools need to thoroughly document student conduct

Sunday , August 06, 2017 - 4:30 AM

STANDARD-EXAMINER EDITORIAL BOARD

Children misbehave at school.

Sometimes it’s innocent. At other times, it puts the emotional and physical health of other children at risk.

But teachers and administrators cannot effectively intervene unless they understand who’s misbehaving, how often and why. They need information.

Or, in the case of the Ogden School District, they need more information.

  • RELATED: “Discipline in Ogden elementary schools: What does it mean and how is it tracked”

The district’s code of conduct lists five levels of misconduct:

  • Level 1 includes disruptive behavior, tardiness, mild physical contact and unauthorized use of electronics.
  • Level 2 includes cheating on homework, profanity, harassment, leaving school without permission and repeated tardiness.
  • Level 3 includes plagiarism or cheating on tests, examinations or projects; using obscene or biased language; “unacceptable physical contact,” such as rough horseplay or kissing; verbal assault; using tobacco products, and bullying.
  • Level 4 includes fighting, gang activity, intimidation, and physical, emotional or sexual harassment.
  • Level 5 includes assault, possession of a weapon, possession of alcohol or drugs, vandalism and sex crimes.

State regulations only require schools to document Level 4 and 5 offenses. The Ogden School District adheres to state policy. If schools want to collect more data, that’s up to each principal.

Taylor Canyon Elementary School plays by state and district rules. For 2016-2017, it documented 16 total code infractions.

  • RELATED: “Study: Northern Utah schools disproportionately discipline students of color”

By contrast, Heritage Elementary led the district with 428.

Sarah Roberts, the district’s executive director for elementary education, says Heritage gets it right. Roberts wants Ogden schools to document offenses at all levels because it helps administrators identify students who repeatedly misbehave, she told Anna Burleson, a reporter for the Standard-Examiner.

It also allows them to intervene on a child’s behalf, as Terry Humphreys understands.

Humphreys started as principal at T.O. Smith Elementary School in 2013. More than 80 percent of her students qualify for free or reduced-cost meals.

“Many of our students come from lower socioeconomic status homes, and that’s something that’s well-documented that has an effect on students performance at school,” she told Burleson.

So upon her arrival at T.O. Smith, Humphreys began documenting low-level offenses. Unless the school’s teachers and staff knew who was repeatedly acting out, they couldn’t help.

As a result, the number of documented Level 1 incidents at T.O. Smith increased from 6 in 2013 to 63 in 2016-2017. Overall numbers followed a similar trend, going from 242 to 414.

Despite the school’s challenges, however, data shows T.O. Smith led the district in just one category of offenses in 2016-2017.

No, not Level 4 or 5. Level 2, with 114 incidents. Humphreys knows why, too — she can trace the results to a small number of students who repeatedly committed minor infractions.

And that allowed Humphreys and her staff to help those children right away, before things escalated.

Thoroughly documenting student misbehavior improves a school’s learning environment and enhances classroom safety. Additionally, by encouraging educators to intervene early with troubled children, it can help keep kids in school.

The Ogden School District needs to do more than the minimum. It should require its schools to document student misconduct at all levels.

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