A New Discipline Policy In The LA Schools
By Harriet Steinberg
Mar 11, 2007 - 2:10:00 PM

LOS ANGELES —The Los Angeles Board of Education recently adopted a new discipline policy. The purpose of this new policy is to decrease the amount of students who are kept after school for punishment, and who are suspended due to misbehavior.

This new policy is the first of its kind in the nation. The Los Angeles school district (LAUSD) is the second largest school district in the United States and has been dealing with many behavior problems. It is believed by some administrators that punishment is not the answer for certain behaviors.

Principal Vince Carbino at a South Los Angeles school, believes that in some cases, students act out because it is a way of saying, "I need help." This is his belief in the case where a 15 year old sophomore at the Santee Education Complex was arrested for tagging a bus which was carrying Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Supt. of Schools, David Brewer. The boy scrawled his nickname on the outside window of the bus. He was extremely surprised and stopped his tagging when he saw a photographer take his picture. Carbino recognized that the boy was only trying to get attention because he was "having achievement issues at school."

The new policy is adopted for minor offenses, not for the more violent cases where some type of punishment is necessary, and the behavior cannot be ignored.

Principals and teachers have had no formal policy to rely on for guidance as to minor misbehavior. They realize that many people will have to get involved in helping these types of students since punishment is not the answer.

"Parents, students and teachers have to get together and be trained," said one administrator. Instead of merely punishing students, teachers will be expected to explain to the student why a certain behavior is wrong and discuss what could be an alternative way of handling the situation.

The district's executive officer of educational services said that we don't just say, "Oh, don't do that," and punish the student for the behavior, because punishment does not change the behavior.

The new policy aims to standardize responses, but it is felt by some that a positive response is not enough. The student has to know that there are consequences for his or her behavior.

Parents will be asked to participate by sitting in on their child's class or meeting with the teacher.

In some cases, a mentor may be assigned to the student. An example of negative behavior is when a student harasses another pupil. Another example, which is occurring much too often, is a disrespectful remark to a teacher.

It is hoped that mentor teachers can be hired to work with such students and talk about how they can improve their behavior. Also, it is hoped that tutors can come in and help students with their school work as in the case of the teenager who tagged the bus.

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