Columbus Municipal School District students saw an increase in disciplinary referrals from last August, largely due to incidents involving its middle- and high-school students.
CMSD released student discipline referrals during its regular board of trustees meeting Monday night. Although nearly all schools reported fewer referrals this past month than last August, the increased referrals from Columbus Middle School and Columbus High School swelled the district’s total to 24 more referrals to start the new school year, compared to August 2017.
CHS showed a 77-referral increase from last August, totaling 277 for the month this year. Most student infractions were tallied for cutting class, defiant and disruptive behavior, tardies and dress code violations.
“Some of that may be that people are having higher expectations and are putting more things on paper than they were last year,” said first-year Superintendent Cherie Labat. “We are going to wait and see if things settle down to see if there’s a significant difference.”
CMS students nearly doubled last year’s number rising from 60 referrals to 118. The largest increase in referrals there were bus incidents, which more than tripled from last year’s report to 39.
Labat said the increase at the secondary levels sparked a meeting with principals at CHS and CMS. She added she will continue to monitor behavior each month to see if behavior improves once students settle into the school year.
“The principals helped identify key factors on why they felt like discipline was increasing,” Labat said. “They just felt like a number of incidents that have happened outside of school have been brought into the school environment.”
Labat would not speculate on the record as to what the outside influences could be.
Joe Cook and Fairview elementaries nearly cut student referrals in half this August, while Franklin Academy cut its student referrals from 74 last August to 29 this year. Sale Elementary students also cut its referrals by seven. Stokes-Beard Elementary, the only elementary school to increase, had only five more students with referrals.
Labat credited behavioral interventionists placed at elementary campuses with the discipline improvement.
All CMSD schools, excluding CHS, showed bus incidents as the leading referral by a student. Labat said that referrals for bus incidents during the beginning of the year are often common throughout most schools.
“We will continue to be mindful of that,” Labat said. “One thing we are monitoring and making sure we are being vigilant about is continuing to develop relationships with our bus drivers to make sure they are building relationships with kids.”
Although Lowndes County School District student discipline referrals dropped slightly for the first month of the school year, Caledonia Elementary School students had a drastic increase.
Overall, the district showed 294 referrals for August of this year, compared to 312 in August 2017.
Whereas most schools showed improvement or a slight increase, CES referrals for bus misconduct and disruptions in the classroom quadrupled. In August 2017, CES had 13 student disciplinary referrals, which increased to 52 this past month.
Deputy Superintendent Robin Ballard could not speak to a specific reason for the increase in referrals at CES, but she did note that CES has a higher student-teacher ratio than other schools in the district. With the largest increase in bus disruptions, LCSD has implemented certain safety measures.
“We have increased the number of cameras on buses in an effort to deter misbehavior,” Ballard said. “This is also a place where safety is of the utmost importance and so less tolerance is in order so students get delivered safely to school and to their homes.”
New Hope Middle School showed the greatest improvement from last year with only 25 referrals as opposed to 85 in August 2017. West Lowndes High School also showed a drastic improvement with 25 fewer referrals from last August.
“When students feel valued and are engaged in their learning process, a decrease in infractions is a natural occurrence,” Ballard said. “We strive to have safe and welcoming learning environments where high expectations and high student engagement guide student achievement.”
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