By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
BELMONT – While crowding on school buses has resulted in increased disciplinary action at Shaker School District, early intervention for behavior problems seems to be having a positive effect.
Elementary School officials told board members recently that a good deal of the discipline reports at Belmont Elementary School are caused by the same handful of students.
Administrator Ben Hill said much of the increase in disciplinary cases in the past two years can be attributed to a small number of students who ride the bus, and most of the other increases involve horseplay, refusals to cooperate and disruptive behavior.
One of the reasons for increased bus activity, he said, is the elimination of two buses, meaning there are more children on each bus.
Severe disciplines are not as high as they used to be, said officials, because teachers are trying to intervene earlier and creating more responsive classrooms using positive behavioral intervention techniques.
The good news is that the number of suspensions, either in school or out of school, has declined from 91.5 in 2014-15 to 30.5 in 2015-16. Administrators said early intervention has helped them keep more children in the classroom, as opposed to sending them to separate rooms or home.
Additionally, said Hill, 50 percent of the days for suspension can be attributed to one student.
The report presented to the School Board last month says Belmont Elementary School administrators have identified a need for staff training and more teachers need to be trained in responsive classroom techniques and positive behavior intervention strategies.
Belmont Middle School saw similar increases in the same categories of what administrators call the three "Ds" - disruptive, disrespect and defiance. They have also see a bump in cell phone use violations.
Many of these incidents, said Assistant Superintendent Aaron Pope, were single incidents with multiple participants and each participant get a violation.
Pope said that in 2015-16 they had a group of "aggressive eighth-grade students" but the school's goal is to keep him or her in a classroom for as much of the day as possible, rather than send a child into the Student Support Center for the entire day during an in-school suspension.
"We want teachers to handle it," said Pope.
Administrators said they asked the students what they would like to see changed and, as expected, many replied they want changes in the cell phone policy and dress codes, which the school is not willing to change.
All administrators for all three Belmont schools said absenteeism and truancy is their biggest concern.
All administrators said that they have been known to got to homes from which students have high truancy rates. They said the school resource officer occasionally goes, but that it's not really their job.
There is no "truant" officer in Belmont.
The administrators also said some parents find it acceptable to pull a child from school for an entire week. When the administration tells them that only so many absences are allowed per trimester, some parents have a hard time hearing that.
"We're OK with the push back (from parents)," Pope said. "We want kids in school."
Belmont High School administrators are all new to the school district but said after a preliminary review of the statistics, they would like to see an in-school suspension option such as the Student Support Center at the Middle School. The issue, they said, is a lack of space.
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