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VUSD Assistant Superintendent Melanie Stringer walks mother and father and guardians by way of the district’s on-line reporting system

VISALIA, Calif. – Valley Oak Center Faculty lecturers have been requested to reply two questions concerning the faculty’s local weather and tradition.

Overwhelmingly, the lecturers stated the varsity’s self-discipline mannequin is damaged.  

At a particular assembly Thursday evening, Visalia Unified Faculty District lecturers resoundingly agreed, saying there’s a “disaster” in school rooms throughout town. 

Mother and father backed them up on virtually each concern. 

Only one instructor spoke in favor of the present self-discipline mannequin. 

Like many campuses in California, Visalia Unified Faculty District follows the Optimistic Conduct Interventions and Helps system when college students misbehave or act out.

With PBIS, college students are positioned in intervention applications, counseling, and different applications earlier than a suspension or expulsion is really useful. Lecturers say it is uncommon scholar ever receives help to deal with their points. 

Most often, they’re despatched again to class after a quick journey to the workplace. In some situations, lecturers say they’re held to reply for why they despatched the scholar, slightly than coping with it themselves. 

Visalia Unified started adopting the mannequin in 2013. Lecturers had excessive hopes. They have been met with disappointment. 

As incidents on campuses have worsened, lecturers and oldsters are pushing again.

Visalia Unified board member Juan Guerrero (left) speaks with Ben Dhillon, director of Social Emotional Wellness, after a particular board assembly on Thursday, March 7, 2019. (Photograph: Calley Cederlof)

Do not pee on my lunch

Mother and father voiced concern with incidents on campus, like a scholar who advised a classmate to “kill your self” and “getting away with it,” one mum or dad stated. That scholar was awarded two weeks later with a Respect award. 

One Golden Oak Elementary mom stated her daughter’s lunch was urinated on and the scholar accountable was “again in school the following day.” Her daughter did not notice her lunch had been spoiled till she took a chew. 

“There are zero penalties at our colleges and I feel the district must put one thing in place (so) there are penalties,” Malika Anaya said. “The district needs to step up.” 

Teachers told stories about being cussed at, ignored by administrators and evacuating entire classrooms because of one student’s tantrum. 

A first-grade teacher said one “little guy” kicked things off desks and another student pretended to decapitate another classmate.

Students have gotten so good at evacuating, they never forget to take their computers with them, she said.

“My first-grade girls write in response to these kids, who say terrible things to me at times, ‘We love Miss Jarrett, she is the best teacher … she protects us,” said Leisa Jared, a Riverway Elementary teacher who spoke during the meeting. “Why do first-graders (have to think like that), it’s not like it’s an active shooter. It’s another first-grader” 

Valley Oak teacher Alysha Owens speaks to board members at the Visalia Unified special board meeting at the district office on Thursday, March 7, 2019. (Photo: Calley Cederlof)

‘Directly to prison’

The system is modeled around three levels of student support, known as tiers. Students are placed in a tier depending on the level of support or intervention needed. 

Tier 1 is a “universal” approach. Tier 2 is more targeted for an individual student. Both rely on positive feedback and rewards. Tier 3, which educators say is currently not even an option for their students, offers an “intensive” level of support for students who continue to act out.

The U.S. Department of Education urges districts to implement a “multitiered approach to social, emotional and behavior support. The broad purpose of PBIS is to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and equity of schools.”

“PBIS improves social, emotional and academic outcomes for all students, including students with disabilities and students from underrepresented groups,” according to PBIS.org.

One of the problems? There are no consequences, teachers said. Conversely, students are often rewarded or even thanked after acting out.  

Crestwood Elementary kindergarten teacher Raul Gonzalez said students aren’t being prepared for real life.

“At the end of the day, if we don’t have kids understanding that there’s going to be consequences for their actions when they grow up and they leave our schools, they’re going to be going directly to prison,” he said. “They’re going to expect somebody to give them a candy and say, ‘Hey, it’s going to be OK.'”

When there are finally consequences, teachers say students are confused. 

“Unfortunately, our current system is not helping the 10 percent of students who desperately need support,” said Divisadero Middle School teacher Katherine Wilson. “My students are in shock when they finally cross a line that results in a suspension or expulsion because small rules were not enforced.” 

Horseplay, cussing, bigotry and defiant behavior have been treated as no big deal, Wilson said.

“Behaviors escalated until they finally find themselves crossing a big line,” she added. 

Gonzalez asked for more emphasis on building strategies to deal with students who are “escalating in anger.”

Crestwood Elementary Kindergarten teacher Raul Gonzalez speaks to board members at the Visalia Unified special board meeting at the district office on Thursday, March 7, 2019. (Photo: Calley Cederlof)

Leaderless

Some board members looked to principals for answers and action. 

“I see lack of leadership, lack of trust, lack of communication, kids being put back into the classroom without intervention, many places (with) no collaboration with the whole school community, the rest of the kids are losing out on their educations,” said board member Walta Gamoian.

Some teachers said the lack of leadership on campuses is a driving force behind PBIS’s downfall. 

Board Member William Fulmer has shared his dissatisfaction with the system for several years. 

“There’s this assumption that those average kids will be OK. They won’t,” Fulmer said. “If we don’t support the teachers, and I grant you a major issue is we have principals not doing their jobs, I don’t care what the issue is – it’s not working.”

Gamoian said, “something needs to be done now.” 

“I feel like we’re in a 911 situation,” she added. 

Visalia Unified Teacher’s Association President Greg Price speaks to board members at the Visalia Unified special board meeting at the district office on Thursday, March 7, 2019. (Photo: Calley Cederlof)

‘Out of the fire’

Greg Price, VUTA president, said teachers’ frustration with PBIS is widespread. 

“There are a lot of tears on the phone to me,” he said. “I have a lot of people call me and tell me ‘I can’t go to work tomorrow. I just can’t get back in, it’s too insane in my classroom.'”

Price said the problem with the system is not just visible across Visalia but can be seen nationwide. 

“Part of our problem is schools are falling apart now. Teachers are falling apart now. Classrooms are in crisis,” Price said. “We need to deal with those and we can’t wait five years for that to be done.” 

“Crisis” was the keyword, not only because thousands of students are missing out on their educations, but because no one can point to a clear plan to fix it, teachers said. 

“We’re in a crisis and what I would like to see is a plan in place to get us out of the fire and then we can go back and build those systems and structures that need to be built,” Gamoian said. 

Follow Calley Cederlof on Twitter: @calleyc_vtd. 

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