TUPELO – Tupelo administrators and school board members are in the process of reviewing the district’s discipline policies, seeking to make them clearer.
Tweaking such policies for the next year’s handbook is an annual activity, Tupelo Assistant Superintendent Matthew Dillon said. With Superintendent Gearl Loden completing his second year in the district, however, this year’s review is more thorough as the administration considers policies and procedures that predate him.
“The first year, you want to see what is already in place,” Dillon said. “Then you can re-evaluate to make sure we are doing what is best for our students.”
Loden and Dillon have met with administrators from Milam, Tupelo Middle and Tupelo High schools to get feedback. They’ve also had discussions with school board members. The plan is to present proposed changes at next month’s school board meeting.
One area being reviewed is the district’s stepladder system, which increases the punishment for each discipline violation. The district is considering ways to simplify the process, Dillon said. In some places, there may be the need to reduce the number of steps for larger consequences.
“We want to make sure we have the appropriate number of steps, not too many or too few, so that principals have the autonomy to hand out the appropriate discipline based on infractions,” he said.
Discussions also involve a list of non-negotiable offenses that would send students to the alternative school or lead to expulsion. The idea is to proactively communicate that list.
School discipline was a hot topic prior to Loden’s arrival in the district, including perceptions that teachers weren’t being supported and that the discipline ladder contained too many steps. It is an area Loden has said is important to address, and much of the turmoil on the issue has calmed during the past couple of years.
One change already implemented is the addition of required conferences between parents and educators after students commit certain offenses.
“We know the importance of backing our teachers,” Dillon said. “To have optimal learning, we need to have orderly classrooms. We are committed to having safe and orderly classrooms.”