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A student on his way to school walks past a Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) school bus.
Some 350 Los Angeles Unified educators attended a first-of-its-kind symposium Wednesday on how schools can improve student behavior.
Discipline problems are frustrating to teachers and contribute to students’ poor academic performance and drop out rates.
At the symposium, one education scholar told participants why harsh discipline doesn’t compel students to behave. Another speaker, this one a public interest lawyer, said more people need to advocate on students’ behalf.
L.A. County Juvenile Court Judge Donna Groman told the group that time in juvenile hall doesn’t help all students who break school rules — so that’s why she'd like to keep more in class.
"We don’t always know that you have a plan that you’re implementing; and that this youth is changing for the positive — and because we see a report that says missed 10 days of school, off they go to juvenile hall," she said. "And that defeats everything you’re trying to do."
The plan that’s generating a sea change across LAUSD campuses is called "School Wide Positive Behavior Supports."
Sharon Katz is a principal at a South L.A. elementary school, after the symposium, she said she’d return to her campus with ideas to reward good behavior with a little fun. "We can play a bingo game and when they fill out a bingo card for good behavior we can recognize them for that. She had some good ideas: A pie eating contest. "I think my kids would enjoy watching my teachers eat pie and getting all messed up. There was a principal here cut his head into a Mohawk and painted it pink for some time, I would go for something like that, too," she said.
L.A. Unified’s local district seven includes more than 80 schools. Each one sent representatives, and a few included parents. Elementary school teacher Baadia Daaood said the conference gave her some ideas for ramping up parent involvement. "Some of the parents are just not available for one reason or another to really devote the quality time that children need, and I just think that the children want more quality time and they want to feel like they’re cared for," Daaood said.
Toward the end of the symposium, school representatives wrote down what they’ll do to make the district’s positive behavior policy work. Administrators said they plan to visit schools from time to time and carry along copies of those pledges.