SC School System Scraps Disciplinary Practices to Parents' Shock

Instead of disciplining misbehavior with detention, in-school suspension, and office referrals, teachers will deal with most issues internally, with conversation and mediation.

ROCK HILL, S.C. -- Rock Hill Schools have implemented a program that will focus on and reward good behavior rather than punish bad behavior.

Instead of disciplining misbehavior with detention, in-school suspension, and office referrals, teachers will deal with most issues internally, with conversation and mediation.

Rock Hill School district leaders say the PBIS, or Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, is based on proven data and will eventually lead to fewer dropouts, less violence, and higher graduation rates.

“I’ll be the first to say there are some major infractions that need to be taken care of,” said Dr. Nancy Turner, director of exceptional student education with Rock Hill Schools. “But 85 percent of the infractions that are sent to the office should be handled by the teacher.”

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Dr. Turner is helping implement the PBIS program in all 27 Rock Hill schools.

“With fewer office referrals, our administrators will then be able to get into classrooms to work more in other areas other than just discipline,” Dr. Turner explained.

Now, if a student acts out, teachers are trained to deal with it using constructive conversation rather than detention, referral to the office, or suspension.

“If you have a hit, kick, or punch that might've been a go to the office in the past, we now look at restorative behavior,” Dr. Turner explained. “Saying, ‘you hurt someone, let's take a look at that, let's talk about that,’ instead of bouncing the child out. The child doesn't learn from that.’”

On the flip side, students who behave well in Rock Hill schools will be rewarded more than ever before with incentives, rewards, and public praise.

“We’re taking notice of and rewarding the students that are trying hard and may sometimes go unnoticed because their behavior is very appropriate,” Dr. Turner said. “Which will motivate many other students to want to do the same.”

Some of the district high schools, for instance, have created a school dance event exclusively for students with one or fewer office referral.

But some Rock Hill parents are hesitant.

“That is not acceptable in my opinion,” mother of two Jennifer Hutchinson said. “If there was something to physically happen to my child, I would want the child that was the offender to leave the school. It's great to talk about feelings but there needs to be discipline in the school.”

Others think it may be groundbreaking, by finally getting to the root of what leads to bad and violent behavior in schools.

“I actually think that would be a great step in learning what their problems are at the home and stuff like that,” father of two David Urtie said. “Instead of just punishing them and not talking to them. Too many school systems are quick to punish kids and stick them in separate classes and seclude them from the environment and their classmates, and I don't think that helps. That just makes the situation worse. ”

The district just sent out an anonymous survey to teachers in the district asking how they feel about this new initiative. The results on that are expected to be back after winter break.

Dr. Turner says positive results will start to show after one year and are expected to be even more drastic over time.

“In five years it'll be a total culture change for our district,” she said.

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