New state law on school discipline prompted 5 new deans at Unit 4

New state law on school discipline prompted 5 new deans at Unit 4

CHAMPAIGN — Come fall, school districts across Illinois will no longer be allowed to  suspend students automatically for minor behavioral offenses.

That's why Champaign middle and high school students will soon see five new faces handling disciplinary issues in their buildings.

In order to comply with Senate Bill 100 — a new state law designed to keep kids in school and reduce racial disparity in discipline numbers — Unit 4 school hired five new deans for next school year: Jeff Buhnerkempe for Franklin Middle School, Jessica LaBon for Jefferson Middle School, Darin O'Connell for Edison Middle School, Sarah Long for Central High School and Kaleb Carter for Centennial High School.

All told, the moves will cost the district around $300,000 plus benefits, according to spokeswoman Stephanie Stuart.

"The new deans will focus primarily on proactive work with students to reduce the likelihood of minor disciplinary issues growing into major issues," she said. "... We also have schools that are quite large and the existing number of administrators simply cannot do all that's needed effectively."

Adding the deans will also free up assistant principals to spend more time conducting teacher evaluations, which now must include measures of student growth, Stuart said.

Champaign isn't the only district making changes to comply with SB 100 before its Sept. 1 implementation date.

In April, Urbana Deputy Superintendent Jennifer Ivory-Tatum outlined policy revisions the school board there will need to approve before September, including edits to the district's suspension and expulsion notice templates. Ivory-Tatum said Urbana's SB 100 team plans to assess current disciplinary interventions and research new practices the district could adopt.

Targeting harsh discipline practices, the law requires schools to reevaluate their rules and only suspend, expel or place a student in alternative education as a last resort.

Schools will also no longer be allowed to follow "zero-tolerance" policies, which automatically suspend or expel students for certain offenses. Beginning in September, students can only be suspended or expelled when all other "appropriate or available disciplinary interventions have been exhausted," SB 100 reads.

The only exception: when a student's actions pose an immediate threat to student safety, such as bringing drugs or weapons to school.

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cea wrote on May 04, 2016 at 9:05 am

$300,000 is a lot of money, but it's a pittance compared to the tax dollars that get spent on law enforcement and the criminal justice system dealing with adults who didn't get shown the right path as kids. Schools having to do what should be a parent's job isn't an ideal situation, but it's better than just kicking a kid to the curb. I hope that the individuals in these new positions are up to the task, and I wish them luck.

Marty wrote on May 04, 2016 at 10:05 am

The future of private schools is bright.

Lance Dixon wrote on May 04, 2016 at 12:05 pm

Why does the N-G always lead with how much things will cost when it comes to public education? Sure, the cost is one important aspect of the public school system but not always the most important aspect worth reporting. This is a prime example of such a case. Zero tolerance policies are just plain stupid. Adminsitrators, like judges, need to be able to use judgement and common sense when disciplining children. Zero tolerance policies are for robots - not human beings. Unit Four needs more people in order to proactively handle discipline issues. This is the best way to go about it.

Stop complaining about the cost of education people. Why don't I hear complaints about the trillions of dollars that flow into the coffers of private defense companies? How about the millions of dollars that Kraft stole from Champaign tax payers a few years ago?

You want a better America? Fund the darn public schools!!!!

Mastadon-27 wrote on May 04, 2016 at 3:05 pm

Sure, the cost is one important aspect of the public school system but not always the most important aspect worth reporting. This is a prime example of such a case. Zero tolerance policies are just plain stupid. Administrators, like judges, need to be able to use judgment and common sense when disciplining children. Zero tolerance policies are for robots - not human beings. Unit Four needs more people in order to proactively handle discipline issues. This is the best way to go about it.

 

You’re logic is circular.  Without policies, which are given to each student in a student handbook, updated, every year, and sent home with the student so their parent/guardian has the opportunity to be informed of the expectation of the conduct of all students.  Common sense has to be on both sides of the relationship, not just the district.

 

So, what should be addressed first student discipline, or bright shiny new facilities.  You’re obviously advocating for more money to be spent on disciplinary administrators.  There isn’t enough money to do both.

GeneralLeePeeved wrote on May 04, 2016 at 12:05 pm

The best part of the new law is getting rid of those ridiculous zero-tolerance policies.   I'm tired of seeing school administrators, who make six-digit salaries, hide behind those things.  Decision-making should be one of the major components of their job.....if they make enough bad ones, you get rid of them and hire someone else.    

Champaignite wrote on May 04, 2016 at 1:05 pm

Other than drug and alcohol issues and fights (especially when staff members are hit), I don't know of virtually any zero tolerance policies in Unit 4.  They were gone long ago during the consent decree.  Having said that, this is another law involving education policies made by people who have no idea what goes on in schools. I wish the new deans success but tying their hands completely doesn't help.

Mastadon-27 wrote on May 04, 2016 at 3:05 pm

Yet another un-funded mandate by politicans trying to get re-elected.

Commonsenseman wrote on May 04, 2016 at 8:05 pm

The idiocy of politicians creates this,  why does discipline need to be "equal" amongst all races, is this affirmative action of punishment?  should more people of one race go to jail to equalize crime? All this has created is an environment where private schools thrive in this comunity, what happens with these efforts to "equalize" punishment means is this, if you are a minority you get sent back to class for rules violations and other kids get punished for minor infractions in an attempt to even the numbers, everyone who has kids in Unit 4 has seen this happen.  Maybe true equality means the same rules apply for everyone.  This school system is a disgrace, scores have dropped becaue high achievers left and instead of teaching kids, money is spent on attempts to build a giant sports complex at the outskirts of town.  The younger teachers dont know any better and are indocrinated into this system, the older ones leave in disgust.

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