Pasco schools strike right balance on campus violence | #schoolsaftey

This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.

Published Oct. 5

Every child deserves a quality education — and violence cannot be tolerated on school campuses. Those are two things on which every Floridian should agree. They are also two things that a school district must balance as it deals with student misbehavior. So far, Pasco County appears to have the right approach.

The Pasco school board expelled two Zephyrhills High School students Tuesday, in keeping with Superintendent Kurt Browning’s pledge to crack down on fighting. More expulsions resulting from a Sept. 12 brawl at Zephyrhills and a Sept. 19 fight at Anclote High could be on the way, as the Tampa Bay Times’ Jeffrey S. Solochek reported.

“Just so everybody is fully aware, there is a zero-tolerance policy,” school board member Al Hernandez said after the vote. “And whether it’s these expulsions we just had or the other things that are taking place behind the scenes, just know … we are extremely attuned to this situation.”

Browning first announced a tougher stance on student discipline in March 2022, instructing principals to recommend expulsion for those involved in fights and other “serious misbehavior.” He reiterated that position in September, joining Sheriff Chris Nocco in reminding families that students could face serious consequences, including criminal charges for violent acts.

Speaking to the school board Tuesday, a parent activist questioned the district’s adherence to “zero-tolerance,” noting that in the last school year, after the policy took effect, only nine of 382 students recommended for expulsion were actually removed. If anything, that Pasco is expelling fewer students than some expect is a testament to how the district is rightly separating bad conduct from allowing misbehaving students to get an education. As Browning explained, the parents of children facing expulsion are offered the choice of placing them in virtual schools instead. Nearly 160 took that route last year. Others have been reassigned to alternative schools.

“It’s not my intent to keep them from learning,” Browning said Tuesday. “My intent is to get these disruptive kids off our school campuses.”

That’s a critical distinction. Children who start fights are still entitled to an education. What they risk is the privilege to remain in the very setting where they preyed upon another student. Officials noted that expulsion comes after investigations into the circumstances leading to the fights. Students found to be caught up in the melee or defending themselves or others do not face penalties, in keeping with new state laws.

School districts have an obligation to keep their campuses safe, which is helped achieved by a clear, fair and uniform process for investigating and appealing complaints. No student should be avoiding school out of fear of physical harm. Pasco and other school districts need to continually reexamine their disciplinary policies to strike the right balance. Nobody can ignore what’s happening on campuses, or be blind to the impact that student-on-student violence has on a school’s security and learning environment.

Spend your days with Hayes

Subscribe to our free Stephinitely newsletter

Columnist Stephanie Hayes will share thoughts, feelings and funny business with you every Monday.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

Browning noted that social media may be a factor in organizing some student attacks, and the superintendent suggested he may propose additional restrictions on cellphone use to keep it from contributing to prearranging violence. That’s worth considering. Parents should also play a bigger part by clearly conveying to their children what kind of behavior society expects. As a whole, parents need to get more engaged with how their children are acting at school and take more seriously any signs or reports of disciplinary problems. Until families deal with this better on the front end, school districts will be forced to grapple after the fact, when the damage is already done.

Pasco is right to recognize a problem that ultimately creates losers on both ends. It should continually fine-tune the policy to ensure that violence and education are dealt with separately, keeping campuses safe and open to as many students as possible.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Conan Gallaty. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.

Source link


Click Here For The Original Source.

National Cyber Security