Discipline infractions drop in Lee County

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The number of discipline infractions in Lee County schools has declined by more than 30 percent over the past three years, according to a report.
The report, presented Tuesday at a school board meeting, compiles all discipline infractions reported by the county’s 13 schools, counting offenses from tardiness to fighting. The 6,800-student district had 6,285 incidents for the past school year, compared to 9,190 incidents during the 2007-08 year.
The numbers declined more gradually during the first two years before a sharp decrease this year. There were 8,852 incidents in 2008-09 and 8,306 in 2009-10.
“I expected a decline, but I still want to make sure things are being reported as they should be,” Lee County Superintendent Mike Scott said of the sharp decline.
“I think our teachers are doing a great job of engaging students in the classroom. Our test scores have gone up, and there is correlation there. You know engagement has gone up.”
The largest one-year decrease was at Shannon High School, which went from 4,032 incidents last year to 2,098 this year.
Shannon Principal Robert Smith said that he and his staff increased supervision in the school’s hallways to cut down on tardiness, which had been a particularly prevalent offense. He also emphasized communication, letting teachers, students and parents know they could talk to him and his staff about problems.
Smith said he started noticing a difference about six to eight weeks into the school year. The number of fights fell from 140 to 70 this year.
“Once they realized they could come in and talk and they had ways of resolving things, it caught up as the year went on, and we were able to stop things from happening,” he said.
Guntown Middle decreased from 966 incidents four years ago to 609 this past year. Verona Elementary declined from 536 to 128 during that same period.
Guntown Principal Steven Havens credited the decline to interventions the district has added to help students who are struggling academically.
“Ninety percent of your behavior issues come from kids who struggle academically,” he said. “We’re giving them some hope.”
Verona Principal Temeka Shannon credited two initiatives the school uses to reward good behavior. “We have had a school-wide push for consistency and getting parents more involved and really rewarding behavior when students go well beyond the call,” she said.