Disruptive students need more attention, study says

June 09, 1994|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

Spending more time and effort on the small percentage of troublemakers in Carroll County schools would benefit everyone, said a businessman who served on the 25-member school Discipline Study Committee that unveiled its lengthy report yesterday.

"For 99 percent of the kids, all the normal stuff we do takes care of the problem," said Michael Billingslea, a business and financial planner for Legg Mason in Westminster. He represented the business community on the committee.

"But if we take care of that [1 percent], we would solve 80 percent of the discipline problem," Mr. Billingslea said.

That, in turn, would alleviate the disruption in class for all students, he and other members of the committee said.

After 10 months of reading surveys and student handbooks, calculating data and writing recommendations, the committee submitted its report yesterday to the Carroll County Board of Education.

"We did a lot of reading, writing and arithmetic," Mr. Billingslea said.

Other members included teachers, administrators, counselors and students. The committee was chaired by Edwin Davis, director of pupil services.

The committee sent a customized report to each school building, giving principals, teachers, staff and parents specific recommendations.

"Every school should review those things which have been working in other schools," said Virginia Ashmore, assistant principal at Westminster East Middle School.

She said the committee recommended increased communication with parents, to the point of establishing "parenting" classes.

Members of the study committee emphasized things each school is doing well, and urged staff to share information and learn from model and pilot programs that are getting results, such as time-out rooms, in-school suspension, Saturday school and other alternatives to out-of-school suspension.

School board member Ann M. Ballard said she favors using those alternatives more widely.

"I would like to see more in-school suspension. I really have a hard time when we suspend a student for three days and you see them at the mall or watching TV," Ms. Ballard said.

The board did not vote on the report. Superintendent R. Edward Shilling said his intent for the committee was to report directly to schools with specific information that principals and staff could use.

However, he urged the board to read the report and use its findings as it sets goals and budgets in coming years.

Mr. Shilling will retire the end of this month, but he urged that the hefty report "doesn't become just another doorstop."

"There's a logic to how you can use this," he said. "One of the recommendations the next superintendent ought to consider is having a standing committee [on discipline]."

Mr. Shilling commissioned the study last July, after teachers had raised concerns for three years about the growing lack of respect among students as early as elementary school, and increasing incidences of violence and weapon use.

Several teachers, administrators and board members have said the problem often goes back to some parents who don't teach their children to respect authority.

"I believe the reason our school system is good is the parents," said board member C. Scott Stone. "However, the root of this problem is parents. We have parents who send their children to school who do not have the behavior skills [they need to succeed]."

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