Major student offenses result in a progressive schedule of in-school suspensions

"If students are not in class, then they are not learning," says Crook County High School Assistant Principal Joel Hoff.

While such a conclusion might seem to state the obvious, that viewpoint drives the approach that both the high school and Crook County Middle School staffs take when it comes to student discipline.

"With that in mind, we attempt to schedule suspension days for certain discipline issues on grading days and professional development days so that students will not miss class time," Hoff said.

Both the middle school and high school utilize a progressive disciplinary system that bases punitive action on the severity of the offense as well as the number of offenses. For example, at CCMS, a student can receive a minor referral for lower level behaviors.

"This leads to two lunch detentions," said CCMS Principal Kurt Sloper. "Whenever a consequence or referral is processed, parent contact is made. We also track and record behavior data so we can look at school trends regarding time of day, place in the building, and types of behavior."

Major referrals are levied for the most severe infractions, including fighting, insubordination, harassment/bullying or any illegal activities. These referrals often result in some sort of suspension, but unlike years past when students were held out of school, the punishments are structured to keep kids in the building and continuing to learn.

"We almost never suspend a student out of school unless it involves illegal or severely unsafe behavior," Sloper stated. "By having students serve in-school suspension, teachers can make sure that student academic needs are met."

A first major referral at the middle school results in a single day of in-school suspension. A second major referral results in a second day of in-school suspension, while a third offense adds a third day. A fourth major offense bumps the in-school suspension timeframe to five to 10 days, with another offense beyond that resulting in possible expulsion or change of placement.

Similarly, the high school discipline ranges from a conference with an administrator to single-lunch detention to expulsion.

In addition to transitioning away from out-of-school suspension as a means of improving student education and well-being, the two schools have taken a proactive approach to preventing the types of behaviors that might result in suspensions.

"This is a major focus in our building," Sloper said. "We are constantly implementing collaborative problem solving methods with students to work through problems or issues that arise. Our teaching teams have staffings where the team sits down with the student and/or family and discuss concerns or solutions that can better make the student successful at school. Students always have access to meet with myself or a member of the leadership team (vice-principal and dean) to share concerns. The absolute key to preventative measures are relationships with adults and students. When students feel comfortable talking to adults and letting staff help, listen, discuss, reason, and problem solve, the probability of our preventative efforts increases dramatically."

At the high school, Hoff said staff is utilizing a number of strategies to prevent discipline issues in the classroom. In addition, they encourage students to use an anonymous text line to report any concerns or issues to administrators.

"We can work to head off issues before they become major discipline incidents," Hoff said.

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