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Guest Opinion – Student safety depends on structured discipline

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Open Letter to LISD:

First I’d like to say thank you to the board and the administration for giving me the opportunity to speak publicly about something I am very passionate about – discipline.

I have spoken to the previous Superintendents and other influential people privately, but I feel that speaking publicly may provide the opportunity for

change.

I want to make it very clear that I stand before you as a very concerned parent of three children attending school here in Lockhart. We built a house in Lockhart and have personally invested in this community and in this District.

I am in no way attacking anyone. I am here to help and to make a positive impact for all of Lockhart. Together, parents, teachers, administration and the Board can get us headed in the right direction.

I have two main requests: 1.) In our search for a new Superintendent, we search for a leader with a proven history of structured discipline, and 2.) While we are searching, that all of us, as strong campus personnel, administrators and Board members make discipline our number one priority.

One of the very first things I learned in my education classes at the University of Texas and through training with Region 13 is that students focus and learn best in a safe learning environment. A student who is in constant fear in the classroom will not be free to maximize their full learning and creative potential. When our kids feel safe in the classroom, our standardized test scores will improve.

Many events have occurred throughout this year that have me, and many other parents concerned that we are not doing enough to ensure that our children have a safe learning environment. My own daughters have witnessed things that have frightened them to the point of tears; they have begged us to keep them home, or possibly to even home-school.

Many times these events, as well as many others, go seemingly without consequence and the perpetrators are back in regular classes almost immediately.

We have amazing, hard-working kids in this district. But kids will do what they are allowed to do. It is human nature for kids to test limits.

For the most part we are talking about a small number of kids that are causing the most trouble, but they just seem to be allowed to act out without progressive consequences.

In my years of leading different groups, I have learned that a group can be divided into three parts: the top 10 percent, the middle 80 percent and the bottom 10 percent.

The middle 80 percent will lean in the direction of the strongest 10 percent. If the top is stronger, the total group is stronger. If the bottom 10 percent is strongest, group will lean that direction as well.

If we apply this in terms of behavior, then you will see that those that are causing the most trouble are greatly affecting the rest of the student population.

Take for example, a kid that is constantly in trouble, who cusses or physically shoves a teacher. That kid may be removed from the classroom for a brief period, only to return shortly after. That child once again, knowing that there is no real serious consequence, repeats this action. Another child, in the middle 80 percent sees this regularly occurring; they begin to disrespect that same teacher.

Therefore, the problem spreads.

It only takes correcting the issue once or twice appropriately in order to regain control of this situation. If we don’t take action, we will lose good teachers, administrators and more importantly the top 10 percent of students, who want to feel safe and do respect the rules.

The only way to take back discipline is to have clear rules and consequences that are supported from the top, down and from the bottom, up. In other words, if a teacher writes a referral on a student, then the campus principal must take action that is then supported by the district all the way to the top.

If consequences are reversed or reduced for any reason, then the teacher and/or principal will have had their authority stripped in the eyes of the student or parent.

This will require all district personnel enforce the rules. Unfortunately, given recent changes this year in alternative placement options, teachers feel that no matter the number of referrals, the students acting out just return to the classroom.

So we now have teachers that stop writing referrals or attempting to enforce the rules, as it seems to do no good. Teachers are frustrated; kids are scared and parents are looking for alternatives.

This can be fixed but it will take all of us together, to make sure that our kids are safe and able to reach their full potential.

To summarize, our students must feel safe in the classroom in order to perform at their best. We must search for a Superintendent with a proven history of structured discipline. Until that person arrives, we as a strong district must take immediate steps to correct this situation.

We cannot wait for someone to do it for us.

Brian Herman

Lockhart

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Editor’s Note: The preceding statement was read into the record at the regular meeting of the Lockhart ISD Board of Trustees on Monday evening. Because of the weight of the message, our Editorial Board chose to publish the statement in its entirety, rather than attempting to paraphrase Herman’s comments in the context of news coverage of the board meeting.

 

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