School discipline – a hot topic that has brought parents out to school district meetings to share their child’s experiences – came up again Monday night in Milford.
This time, the conversation focused on discipline data from this school year that was reviewed during the monthly board meeting.
As expected, there have been much more incidents at the secondary level than the elementary level.
So far this year, there’s been 1,717 disciplinary referrals at the high school level, with the top three violations being dress code (511), skipping class (476) and tardiness (441). Tardiness referrals are given every third time a student is late.
Milford’s dress code has been discussed a lot over the past two years, with parents even petitioning to have it banned due to a financial burden and inconsistency of its enforcement.
The top three consequences for secondary students have been detention (746), one-day in-school-suspensions (707) and reprimands (226).
For elementary students, there’s been 368 disciplinary referrals this year.
The top three reasons are for inappropriate behavior – careless/reckless behavior (75), failure to obey safety process (27) and disruption of educational process (25).
Most common punishments have been a 30-minute timeout (61), a 60-minute timeout (41) and a verbal warning (37).
“One thing I want to note, because I know it is a conversation for many families and our board and community, only 2% of our high school students and 1.9% of our Central Academy students have been disciplined for fighting or disorderly conduct,” said Jessica Weller, Milford’s supervisor of school climate and safety.
Here’s some insight as to how the district is combatting incidents leading to disciplinary referrals at Milford High School and Milford Central Academy:
“I wanted you all to see this data. One, just to get that transparent snapshot of the numbers,” Weller said, “and then, two, to show that most of our students, a majority of our students are coming to school and learning and not having any disciplinary issues whatsoever.”
The district is also putting emphasis on specific strategies to ensure student safety:
- Strategy 1: Consistent application of Student Code of Conduct across all schools.
- Strategy 2: Routine safety drills in collaboration with designated safety officials.
- Strategy 3: Foster current and future partnerships with local and state police agencies and designated staff to monitor the safety and security of all schools.
Weller also shared the following staffing and community resources for students who have shown behavioral problems:
“Those that are having disciplinary issues, we are identifying and we are applying interventions and support in the form of behavior support plans and one-to-one counseling and check-ins,” Weller said.
Here’s a visual of the amount of referrals for students at the high school:
“One in five of our students are either in the yellow or the red,” said board member Adam Brownstein. “I don’t know how you deal with that. If I worked for a company, and one out of every five of my employees was creating some kind of drama in the workplace, I would have a highly unproductive company at that point.”
He said he receives calls from parents and community members asking what the district plans on doing to fix the behavioral problems.
Board member Matt Bucher asked what percent of students at the high school are on Individualized Education Plans, which turns out to be between 12% and 15%.
“And from a disciplinary standpoint, it often means that the administration can’t apply the same series of consequences as a student that does not have an IEP would you find that to be a correct statement?” Bucher asked Weller.
Weller said the district asks that the teachers would follow all IEP goals before applying the code of conduct, or any subsequent punishments.
Tuesday afternoon. Bucher said that Milford School District is dealing with the same discipline challenges as every other public schools in Delaware and across the country.
“The board as currently constituted is taking a hard line against bullying, fights, drug activities and chronic behavior problems,” he said. “The reason we are seeing these higher numbers is that the code of conduct is being followed more consistently than in the previous few years.”
There aren’t more incidents, there’s more write ups, he said, and Milford still has a long way to go.
“Be assured, although the staff can’t catch every infraction, poor behavior will eventually catch up to the offending student,” he said. “I think a big problem is the processes and the results are not satisfactorily communicated to the public, which leads to speculation, which leads to rumor and exaggeration. Transparency is the key.”
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
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