A young man reached out to the Policy Werkes to relate his involvement in crafting the Madison school district’s Behavioral Education Plan. He asked that his name not be published as he wishes to have a career someday in Madison. This is his story:
As a Memorial high school student in the summer of 2015, I was approached to join an advisory committee on the Behavioral Education Plan’s classroom implementation plan. There were four meetings on the issue.The meetings’ goals were to simplify the BEP’s 20-something pages and nuances into something easy to adhere to by teachers and faculty whilst making decisions on the fly in the classroom. …
At one of the four meetings, there were was another student present although he was quiet and did not really share insight. One teacher was present for about 30 minutes at one of the meetings, but that was the only time an educator was ever present. Myself (a student in the district) and “community stakeholders” were the people who really were making up this committee.
… They were all lovely people to share insight with and they were generally interested in what I had to say. However, it became readily apparent that many of them had not had an honest view of a high school since the days when they themselves were students.
Playing hide and seek with school security
Some of them took part in the principal-for-a-day program the district runs which is not an accurate view of how our high school operated. This program specifically visits higher performing classes — honors or AP — and at that the classes were given a heads up to be on their best behavior.
… Students who were asked to leave the classroom and go to the office (either the dean or principal) … did not hesitate when given the opportunity to leave, which was a little bit of surprise to the stakeholders. But what really came as a surprise to them was the fact that the student did not actually go to the office.
These students would instead roam the hallways, mess around with their friends and create noisy distractions for students in classrooms actually trying to learn.
One teacher I talked to when trying to get insight for these meetings described incidents of these students practically playing hide and seek with school security for fun and to avoid going to class or to an administrators office.
The lack of follow through on disciplinary measures was another shock to them. I think my gym classes were by far the best indicator of this (as everyone was required to take gym classes and it’s not like there’s an honors gym). Fights, skipping, disruptive behavior, harassment, etc. were the norm. …
‘Even when one student struck our gym teacher …’
I can not tell you the number of times a student would be removed from class for poor behavior and then be sent back before the period was even over and continue the behavior. Even when one student struck our gym teacher because the teacher tried to simply calm the student down, the student was back in class a few days later after an in-school suspension. Not to my surprise, the student continued rude, dangerous, and disruptive behaviors. No matter how many times security was called, students were sent away, or in some other way punished, the poor behavior continued.
Teachers did not have the power to actually suspend or discipline students, so whatever threats they made of punishment lacked the follow through with the administration.When I shared these experiences at the meeting the stakeholders were shocked but the administrators quickly came to the defense of the BEP by saying that students were “punished” and then “worked back into the classroom.”
I’m sure by now that you’re aware of several incidents of staff and faculty being harmed by students but I can say from first-hand observation these are not even close to all actual incidents of staff taking blows from students. What I found is that the community stakeholders were all too willing to assume that these incidents were incredibly rare, or that the staff must have provoked the students in some manner. I imagine if staff were actually present they would have … been able to share all sorts of horror stories.
Administrators ran the show
This leads me into my last observation: I firmly believe the lack of students and staff at these meetings was intentional. It’s a lot easier to get “feedback” from community stakeholders who have absolutely no idea what’s occurring at these schools and does not truly affect them. Especially with how MMSD sold the BEP to the public, it was never going to get any objection from someone who is not in a school day in and day out. It’s a lot harder to confront all the issues the BEP created or exacerbated when you give a voice to your students and faculty.
… The administrators, although polite and kind, seemed more interested in sticking with their agenda. The following years at my high school continued with the same issues and resulted in some of the finest teachers I’ve ever had fleeing to other districts or retiring early.
I have nothing but the utmost respect for all the teachers and principals I had throughout my time as a student with MMSD, and I want to make it clear that I firmly believe that what I witnessed and experienced was not poor teaching, but poor administrating from the district.
No surprise the BEP failed
After sitting in on these meetings and seeing how the district operates in order to execute their agenda, it should come as a surprise to no one that the BEP failed, and whatever they construct to replace it will fail as well.