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Teachers Report Poor Training Following District’s New Behavior Plan to Reduce Student Suspensions

Teachers Report Poor Training Following District’s New Behavior Plan to Reduce Student Suspensions

A new survey of Indianapolis Public Schools teachers has found that the majority of the district’s teachers do not feel properly trained on the district’s new behavior plan intended to reduce student suspensions.

"The unscientific survey administered by the IPS teachers union found that 69 percent of secondary teachers and 59 percent of elementary teachers don't feel prepared to carry out the techniques IPS wants staff to use as means of improving classroom behavior and cutting down on out-of-school suspensions,” said

In order to provide more meaningful forms of discipline to students based on outstanding research that suspensions have a devastating effect on learning, IPS has revised its Student Code of Conduct (SCC) to reflect this. The new code of conduct blends positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) and restorative justice practices to create alternative methods of discipline that keep kids in school and learning.

”With the SCC, we will stay focused on preventative expectations with corrective and restorative responses rather than sending students out of the classroom. We want to continue to dramatically reduce suspensions, expulsions and arrests and keep all our students engaged, learning and succeeding in a safe and positive environment,” said IPS Superintendent Lewis D. Ferebee in a statement.

But while IPS district officials have good intentions, the majority of both elementary and secondary teachers reported that they don’t have enough information about the new code of conduct let alone enough training on the new policies.

Last September, one veteran IPS district encouraged teacher hopefuls to avoid teaching within the district because of the lack of support attached to the new code of conduct.

”...students who are violating the rules are simply sent back to class. In extreme circumstances (assaulting a teacher) students are placed in an in-school suspension room for one day and then they are sent back to class. All of this is being done in the name of statistical improvement and at the expense of teachers’ and students’ wellness,” the angered teacher wrote.

To be clear, IPS is not the lone district to have problems implementing alternative forms of discipline to suspensions and expulsions. In November of last year, Los Angeles Unified School District teachers made similar complaints about a lack of support for new disciplinary practices that they said resulted in unruly students with no relief.

The complaints came directly after LAUSD banned suspensions for non-violent offenses.

"The district itself has only been able to provide training to 307 of the 900 campuses it oversees, and the [Los Angeles] Times says only a third of the district’s 181 secondary schools will be reached by counselors, "where discipline problems are the most acute,” Education World reported at the time.

IPS’ Ferebee agrees that more support systems need to be put in place to best provide teachers with the tools to oversee safe classrooms, but argues despite challenges restorative practices will continue. 

"More professional development for staff is essential. The stakes are too high to lose more students.”

Read the full survey results here.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor


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