Hargens: JCPS takes safety in schools seriously
This from JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens in the Courier-Journal:
One of the greatest benefits provided by public schools is the rich, diverse experience that students gain in an environment where each individual child is expected to grow academically and achieve certain standards.
Jefferson County Public Schools operates on the foundational understanding that every child matters. That means JCPS must provide both the class time and the additional supports every student needs to succeed in school and graduate prepared to reach his or her full potential and contribute to our society throughout life.
It also means that teachers, counselors and administrators in our schools teach both academics, but also soft skills, such as how to get along, work in a team, respond productively to stress and disappointment, and celebrate successes appropriately. Behavioral lessons are critical to the success of every student, and to the safety of our schools, which is JCPS’s highest priority.
We know that students and teachers can focus on learning only when they feel safe.
JCPS has many programs and resources in place to proactively guide student behavior and to respond when students make poor behavior choices that might endanger safety. I want to share this information with the community to correct any misperception that may exist about how seriously we take safety in our schools, and to underscore JCPS’ commitment to creating a safe environment in which both teachers and students can perform at their best.
Training and education:
Several times each year, JCPS provides training for teachers and staff in a variety of areas to build their capacity for working successfully with students, mitigate misbehavior and to integrate behavioral instruction into curriculum.
This training includes classroom management, cultural competency, de-escalation techniques and restorative practices. We have begun implementation of Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports, an evidence-based framework that emphasizes use of the most positive approach to addressing problem behaviors. Professional Learning Communities are groups of teacher leaders who put their training to work in discussing solutions to behavior issues, such as moving a student to a new classroom or providing additional training.
The JCPS choice system, which offers a wide range of magnet and optional programs to engage students and tap into their interests and learning styles, is also an important part of this element. A student who is excited about coming to school is likely to behave well.
And this year, JCPS began a Compassionate Schools Project pilot program in three schools, incorporating lessons about empathy and mindful decision-making into traditional school curriculum.
Signs and fencing, controlling access to schools by keeping doors locked and requiring visitors to sign in and wear badges, and surveillance elements such as adequate lighting, unobstructed windows and video cameras are among the measures JCPS implements in this category.
Systems and policies:
This element includes procedures, integrated systems that support security, and safety personnel, including the JCPS Security team, School Resource Officers (in-school professionals with law enforcement authority), mental health counselors, Student Response Teams and coaches, and PBIS coaches.
The JCPS Code of Conduct, read and acknowledged by every student and parent or guardian, sets out student and expectations and consequences by grade level and severity. The goal is to ensure proportionate consequences for inappropriate or unsafe behavior, and to correct or teach replacement behavior while minimizing lost time for learning. Certain dangerous behaviors result in suspension or referral to an alternative school at a minimum.
Under this Board-sanctioned Code, no one is permitted to choose a different response for the sake of appearances. So far in 2015, student suspensions are up about 8 percent, while the total days of suspension are down about 5 percent. JCPS suspends students when warranted, but also works to minimize lost class time for learning.
JCPS operates three Success Pathways schools, alternative schools with tighter controls, a higher staff-to-student ratio and extra supports. Students with problem behavior issues assigned to one of these schools have an opportunity to learn replacement behaviors and appropriate responses in an environment where they are not a danger to themselves or others. When they meet certain requirements, we celebrate with these students as they are paired with a mentor and return to their chosen school. Students in these schools are held to the same behavior and academic standards as students at every other school in JCPS, in keeping with our standard that students can be proficient at every JCPS school.
Teachers’ safety perception:
Each year, JCPS conducts an anonymous survey of parents and staff that includes questions about safety. The responses indicate that JCPS is doing the right things to ensure safety. The spring 2015 Comprehensive School Survey found that more than 92 percent of teachers feel safe and secure at their schools. The survey results, both district-wide and by individual school, are on the JCPS website.
Teaching is not an easy job. It requires a commitment to the success of each child in your care. I have tremendous admiration for the nearly 6,500 teachers at JCPS who make that commitment every day.
The root causes of student behavior develop both within and far beyond the walls of JCPS buildings. They include culture, family life, physical and mental health, and the level to which a student’s physical and emotional needs are met. JCPS central staff, administrators, teachers and support personnel are constantly working to learn, model, teach and support successful behavior.
Parents, employers and other members of the community serve as role models for student behavior as well. Let’s work together to ensure that what students learn in school reinforces what they should be learning elsewhere in their lives: the importance of taking responsibility for our behavior and holding ourselves accountable for its impact.