Editorial: A path for change on school discipline

Posted 2/11/22

It’s not surprising to see the newest leader of the Bristol Warren Regional School District stepping in to make substantive changes in policy and procedure. Thats to be expected, as change …

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Editorial: A path for change on school discipline

Posted

It’s not surprising to see the newest leader of the Bristol Warren Regional School District stepping in to make substantive changes in policy and procedure. Thats to be expected, as change often leads to change.

What’s most encouraging is to see Superintendent of Schools Ana Riley address a substantive issue with depth, openness and transparency. Riley announced she has intentions of overhauling the district’s Code of Conduct.

Her goal is to phase out suspensions as a crutch for dealing with unruly behavior in favor of creating a more respectful, collaborative school environment that recognizes students as complex individuals, rather than a lower class beholden to rigid rules.

The philosophy behind this is rooted in an educational framework that is already utilized in Bristol Warren to assist students who struggle with issues academically and in regards to their mental health. Extending this approach, which strives to look at the more nuanced picture behind those external struggles, makes good sense in terms of trying to figure out why a student is acting out or misbehaving, rather than simply punishing that student “by the book” and assuming that will magically set them on a better path.

Those who have been in the district long enough will recall why the most recent code of conduct was implemented. Although reactionary for sure, it is hard to argue against the approach at the time to try and do something, anything, in order to curb the behavioral issues at Kickemuit Middle School that were so widespread they led to a teacher walkout.

But effective administration results when you look at the big picture, set a course you believe to be better, and then stick to it. We are hopeful that this process unfolding now will represent that type of effort.

Riley has announced these intention in February, openly stating that it will not likely be finalized until the beginning of the next school year. In the time between, she has said the goal is to convene administrators, teachers, students and school committee members to fully flesh out the concept and codify it in a thoughtful and equitable manner.

Whether or not you believe that getting rid of suspensions is the right approach to making schools a more respectful place full of students who respect the rules is up to you. At least in this instance, the administration is taking the correct approach from the beginning, involving all stakeholders and letting them contribute to the final outcome.

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Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.