Opinion

Marysville schools work to improve student behavior

by Larry Nyland

Superintendent

Marysville School District

On March 5, one-third of the students at Totem Middle School participated in a walk out. They gathered peacefully in front of the school for one hour. Their goal was to speak out on their concerns regarding classroom disruptions and bullying. Similar comments were heard from parents at a March 12 forum. On March 14, nearly all of those Totem students came to school on a non-school day to talk about improving behavior. Staff and students committed themselves to making improvements.

Our goal as a district is a learning environment that is positive, respectful to all and safe intellectually, emotionally and physically.

Several steps have been taken to improve behavior at the middle school grades.

n Live tip line Students can report potential safety concerns anonymously by calling the 1-866-548-3847 (1-866-LIVE-TIP x 164). Big bold signs are posted in hallways and classrooms.

n Training staff Each of the middle schools have met with staff to review Safe and Civil Schools training.

n City partnership Four meetings have been held with the Marysville Police Department. We have agreed on protocols for requesting assistance and for reporting crimes and graffiti.

n Mapping Local law enforcement agencies are also mapping the remainder of our schools for 911 purposes. This will enable police to respond to emergencies more quickly.

n Communication Updates are being posted on the Marysville School District website every few weeks.

n Discipline matrix District and building administrators are reviewing the consequences matrix to improve consistency. We will also work on common definitions. The revised matrix will be reviewed by the board and communicated to parents.

n Bullying and harassment Building administrators will identify and meet with students who frequently misbehave. Our aim is to intervene earlier to prevent harassment and bullying.

n Graffiti Marysville Parks and Recreation have produced an anti-graffiti video with TV3 (our high school TV station). Police officers will be presenting anti-graffiti programs in each middle school.

Appropriate and consistent consequences are important. We have work to do in clarifying and defining expectations for students. We also need to teach, recognize and reinforce expected behaviors. Good teaching is like good parenting. There is the right mix of clear expectations, counseling, rewards and love. Creating a well-balanced system is our long-term goal. While in the short-term we may rely more on consequences, our long-term goal is to change the culture of behavior through teaching, consistent and constant reinforcement and shared responsibility by administrators, teachers, students and parents.

We count on our families to remind their children frequently that proper behavior is a social expectation. School is a learning environment, both socially and academically, and what we teach needs to be reinforced at home.

Finally, a quote from Assistant Superintendent Gail Miller's report at a recent board meeting: "We have heard parent and student and staff voices. We have important and urgent work to do. One of the most important realizations is that we have kids who care deeply about their learning. We have staff and administrators who care deeply about kids. And we have a community who cares deeply about our schools. No one group can do this work alone. Creating a safe and civil environment must be a shared effort. We all want the same thing for our kids. Together we can create schools where students can learn without fear or disruption."

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