Lafayette educators suggest clearer discipline plan with quicker punishments

A proposed revamp of the Lafayette Parish School System’s discipline policy should be clearer to the public and lay out more-immediate consequences for student misbehavior.

With the revised policy, “a kid won’t have 20 write-ups before being addressed. In having 20 write-ups you’re sending the wrong message,” Assistant Superintendent Sandra Billeaudeau said.

Still, unruly students would get a few chances, under the proposal, before the hammer falls down hard.

For instance, an elementary school student who disrupts a classroom could face either detention or in-school suspension. At the fifth disruption, the student could face out-of-school suspension. A seventh disruption could result in expulsion or placement at an alternative site.

“We all want the students to succeed and what we’re trying to do is create the most effective learning environment, but students should expect more-immediate consequences,” said Bradley Cruice, health and wellness director for the school district.

The policy changes were introduced Wednesday to the School Board, which is expected to take up the matter at its July 17 meeting.

The existing policy, Cruice said, was too confusing, using complex language that didn’t clearly define progressive consequences for repetitive misbehavior.

Side-by-side the existing policy and proposed policy are visual opposites. The proposed policy offers easy-to-read infractions and related steps to follow for a student’s misbehavior. The existing policy lists all possible consequences for each infraction accompanied by a letter denoting whether it’s a required or optional consequence. Some consequences, but not all, also include a number denoting the consequence is related to the number of times the student made the infraction.

The proposed policy also breaks down infractions by level, starting with minor infractions, such as disrupting class or dress code violations, to major infractions like school vandalism or fighting.

“There are direct lines and clearer lines of consequences now,” Cruice said. “I don’t think there are any ambiguities.”

The existing policy also provided multiple chances to disruptive students before a major intervention, such as a suspension, was proposed — a complaint some middle school teachers lodge with the School Board.

The revised policy focuses on behavior modification, with a school’s health and wellness team working to help the students change their behavior, Cruice said. “If all we have are consequences, then the child doesn’t know what the correct behavior is.”

Even the name of the proposed revamp is clearer, dropping the term “discipline matrix” and instead using “Consequences to Behavior.”

“It puts the ownership back on the student,” he said. “This is the consequence of your behavior. It’s not something we’re doing to students.”

If approved, the next step is to align the policy with school bus rules. Bus drivers would also receive training this summer to implement a positive behavior program to reward students who consistently follow the rules, Billeaudeau said.