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Discipline Crisis: Changes coming to TUSD

Students speak out on teacher shortage
Posted at 10:30 PM, Feb 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-27 18:23:31-05

KGUN9 uncovered efforts to downplay students bad behavior in some schools after the district moved to a more lenient discipline policy a few years ago, which contributed to teachers and students leaving the district. Our investigation led to the district making changes in discipline practices, but now we're hearing from Cholla high school students who say more needs to be done.

Three Cholla High School students researched why they are still seeing teachers struggling to control unruly students. David Calzadillas, Paula Rine and Adriana Noriega describe this common occurrence in one word - frustrating. 

I have not seen any improvements, said Calzadillas.

After the three teens studied the district's lengthy discipline policy, they felt more confused than ever about how it's enforced. This changed when they saw the 2017/2018 Cholla High School Behavior Flowchart. This chart reveals what teachers, not administrators, must manage in their classrooms.

 I thought when someone was disrespectful they would send to office and have someone higher up talk to them. I didn't know that teachers are supposed to deal with that, said Rine.

The behavior flowcharts at three high schools reveal why the district's reporting structure is designed that way. Teachers are tasked with handling a long list and the list varies from school to school.

The flowchart shows at least four different interventions. This ranges from reteaching and redirecting expectations to contacting parents before an incident. The teacher can then send a referral to the administration who will then respond within two days.

Paula, David, Adriana say in the district's effort to be fair to the new rowdy and unruly students, the disproportionate discipline is providing them an excuse to continue to bully classmates, defy teachers, and roam hallways after the bell rings.

 I should be able to learn in an environment that's free of disrespect, that's free of violence or things similar to that, Noriega said.

The teens say they now understand why so many teachers are frustrated.

They have to think about what to do the next day when the same students are defiant again and disrespectful and now I see why, because they cannot let the office manage that because it's not their responsibility, Calzadillas said.

Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo spoke about this discipline issue.

What I've seen and what I've heard from teachers is 100 percent consistent with what these kids from Cholla are saying, he said.

Kids are frustrated just like teachers are frustrated. I think that anytime you have a teacher disrespected in front of 25 other students, I think it hurts the culture and climate of that classroom.

Trujillo says two months ago he began working on a plan that he hasn't even shared with teachers yet.

His plan calls for teacher ability to move defiant and disruptive students out of their classroom sooner.

No more than three teacher interventions before something is referred to the office. I think it's burdensome. I think it's intrusive on instruction.

But will this effort be enough? Trujillo has not been able to move the needle on the severe teacher shortage that's still in the triple digits.

 I'm not going to pretend that I've been in here for a year and that's going to be erased overnight. What we can do is show through our action -- little by little that we hear you.

He says he hopes to roll out the entire plan to the governing board in June for the start of the next school year.