Alcona Community Schools implementing new behavior strategy

LINCOLN — Alcona Community Schools has implemented a new behavior strategy to help combat discipline issues in the high school and elementary buildings.

According to Superintendent Dan O’Connor, the plan was developed by elementary Principal Timothy Lee and high school Principal Edwin Barber and presented to the public Monday during a work session meeting of the school board.

O’Connor said the discipline plan is the implementation of monitored rooms for students in both schools known as the intensive restorative student success room.

“We have a staff member who will be avaliable to lead behavior interventions, that could be a short-term student placement, or a several day placement, if we’re not seeing the changes that we needed to see,” he said.

This is instead of suspending a student, which has become harder for educators with a recent change in state law concerning when students can be suspended from schools.

Under the Revised School Code Section 380.1310d school officials have to weigh certain factors before a student is suspended or expelled from a school, including a pupil’s age, discipline history “whether the pupil is a student with a disability, the seriousness of the violation or behavior committed by the pupil, whether the violation or behavior committed by the pupil threatened the safety of any pupil or staff member, whether restorative practices will be used to address the violation or behavior committed by the pupil and whether a lesser intervention would properly address the violation or behavior committed by the pupil,” as outlined in the law.

The new law went into effect in August and many districts across the state have been working out plans to address discipline in students, as opposed to suspension, as a result.

Recently there have been issues with student behaviors in both the high school and elementary buildings. Parents, teachers and students have voiced concerns on school officials’ handling of the issues, which prompted the meeting and revising the discipline plan, O’Connor said.

O’Connor said professionals will work with the students when they get sent to the rooms.

“(We will) really have a heavy focus on reteaching skills to help students get back into the classroom and be able to deal with whatever stresses or situation comes into their way. The goal is really heavy at reteaching of skills so students can be successful and not setting them up for a negative situation again,” he said.

O’Connor said he did not see the change in state law as a challenge but more of a task for educators to get better and continue to look at ways to get to students while the student is still in the building.

“If there is a dangerous situation out-of-school suspension will still be used. Safety is the first goal,” he said. “Education is so important and trying to help some of the students through the challenging situation is our job, and we’re going to do everything we can.”

To achieve the goal O’Connor said additional staff will have to be hired in January.

“At this point we’ve adjusted staff internally to cover these positions in the short term,” he said. “We also reassigned and added a paraprofessional to be there for student needs, we have had to be creative in terms of our programming, but we feel we have a good plan in place.”

Jason Ogden can be reached via email at jogden@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5693.