The Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) is implementing a new set of creative strategies to address student behavioral problems following an uptick in incidents in the aftermath of the pandemic.
These strategies include better collection and sharing of behavioral incident data, greater clarity around behavioral expectations and consequences, new wellness centers at elementary schools, increased parent engagement and in-school alternatives to suspensions.
These new recommendations were produced by BHUSD’s Behavior and Accountability Advisory Panel, which was formed at the end of last academic year at the behest of Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy.
The panel spent the summer engaging with stakeholders and developing new approaches to student behavioral issues and discipline. They presented an update on the strategies already implemented and those still in development to the Board of Education on Sept. 26.
For the most part, School Board members were grateful for the hard work of the panel and excited to see their ideas implemented.
“You brought the parent perspective, the administrative perspective and the community perspective all together, so I commend you for making that happen and I am excited to hear about the next steps,” said Board Member Judy Manouchehri.
Board President Noah Margo also thanked the panel for its work, but expressed frustration that the district is now burdened with the additional responsibility of “parenting,” which he believes distracts from its core mission of educating.
The newly implemented strategies include a standardized system for recording behavior incidents–such as bullying, fighting rude comments, plagiarism, absences, cheating, etc.—and regularly sharing data with parents.
“This won’t be the noise that you’re hearing in chat rooms, people speculating about what they heard,” said Bregy addressing parents. “We are going to share with you important actual data, because our parents said to us over and over again, ‘If you have a problem that’s happening in our schools, we have to know about it.’”
By standardizing the recording procedure, the district also seeks to make it easier for administrators to pull student behavior records and identify any trends in behavioral problems.
In addition, the district is working to provide greater clarity around behavioral expectations and consequences for breaking those expectations.
To that end a “BHUSD behaviors and response” matrix is currently being developed that classify incidents as level 1, level 2 and level 3.
A level 1 incident, such as a rude comment to a fellow student, will be addressed by the classroom teacher with potential responses including a meeting with parents, a written reflection exercise or a classroom detention.
Level 2 incidents are more serious actions such as plagiarism, which require an administrative response such as community service, a school counselor referral or an alternative to suspension agreement.
Level 3 incidents are the most serious of all, such as selling an illegal substance or severe bullying, and will be responded to at an administrative level with actions including suspension, expulsion or law enforcement involvement.
The district is also piloting a new “alternatives to suspension program” at Beverly Vista Middle School, whereby students aren’t sent home for bad behavior—which can sometimes be a student’s desired outcome–but are kept at school with an adjusted schedule that includes time for social emotional learning and working with a counselor.
The goal is to use this as an opportunity to address the root cause of students’ bad behavior and ensure it doesn’t happen again. It may be expanded to other schools in the future.
Another strategy in progress is the opening of wellness aid centers at elementary schools to support young students’ mental health and emotional needs. Mental health services are already widely available at the middle and high school level.
“It’s very prudent to look at the fact that mental health goes hand in hand with matters of discipline,” said Board Member Rachelle Marcus. “As we know, since the pandemic we’ve had an acute increase in mental health difficulties with anxiety, depression, and things like that.”
One additional panel recommendation that was not implemented is the hiring of a new “parent liaison” staff position to work with the district and parents to address behavioral problems and provide referrals to services such as family counseling or substance abuse help.
The panel recommended hiring panel member Ellie Samadi with a $77,000 salary for this position. Board President Noah Margo made a motion to table the item and vote on it at a future meeting.