WCPS starts security assistants program to curb student misbehavior

WCPS begins safety assistants program to curb pupil misbehavior

21 college students expelled from WCPS final college yr


In search of a solution to tackle a rise in behavioral points in its buildings, Washington County Public Faculties began 17 safety assistants at a number of center and excessive faculties final month.

The safety assistants are constructing relationships with college students, serving to the college system be extra proactive in hopes of stopping security incidents from occurring, Superintendent David Sovine mentioned in an interview earlier this yr. He is had expertise working with such positions in Virginia college methods.

When incidents do happen, the thought is for the brand new assistants to assist shortly mitigate the state of affairs and scale back its impression, Sovine mentioned.

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On March 2, when two college students assaulted a college useful resource officer at Springfield Center Faculty in Williamsport, one of many college’s two new safety assistants helped deescalate the state of affairs, college system spokesperson Erin Anderson wrote in an e mail.

There’s been a rise in pupil behavioral points in most college districts throughout the nation due to points associated to the pandemic, Sovine mentioned.

The safety assistants are assigned to North Hagerstown Excessive, South Hagerstown Excessive, Williamsport Excessive, Antietam Academy; and Northern, Western Heights, E. Russell Hicks and Springfield center faculties, WCPS Chief Working Officer Jeff Proulx mentioned.

Thus far, Proulx mentioned Wednesday, this system goes nice. The brand new assistants are immersing themselves in faculties, constructing relationships with college students. Principals additionally reported that the roles the brand new personnel are doing are liberating up some administrative workers to get again to different duties.

Information about behavioral incidents drove the listing of preliminary faculties being assigned safety assistants, Sovine mentioned. The aim is to increase this system so there are safety assistants in any respect the secondary faculties, college system officers mentioned.

The plan is to rent two extra safety assistants this college yr.

The price of 19 safety assistants for a full-year beginning July 1 is $1.2 million, Proulx mentioned.

Pupil conduct issues on the rise since pandemic

Throughout the pandemic, Washington County college students missed months throughout two college years of being in class with different youngsters and educators.

Faculty board members have heard issues from workers, together with lecturers, for over a yr about pupil conduct issues, together with occasional assaults on workers.

Based on a Nationwide Heart for Schooling Statistics’ report final July, 87% of public faculties reported the pandemic negatively affected college students’ socio-emotional growth throughout final college yr. Vital will increase in pupil misconduct disrupting class, rowdiness outdoors lecture rooms, and disrespectful acts towards lecturers and workers had been attributed to the pandemic and its “lingering results,” a middle information launch states.

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Washington County Public Faculties noticed the variety of offenses that led to expulsion or an in- or out-of-school suspension enhance 38% from the 2018-19 college yr — the final full college yr earlier than the pandemic when there was in-person studying the complete yr — to final college yr, in keeping with a Maryland State Division of Schooling report.

For prekindergarten by way of twelfth grade, whole offenses elevated by 858 incidences from 2,271 in the course of the 2018-2019 college yr to three,129 in the course of the 2021-2022 college yr. Offense classes embrace assaults/threats/combating; disrespect/disruption; harmful substances; attendance; weapons; arson/hearth/explosives; and intercourse offenses.

Twenty-one college students had been expelled from county public faculties final college yr in comparison with none in 2018-2019, in keeping with an e mail from Anderson. Expulsion is when a pupil is excluded from their common program for at the very least 45 college days.

Based on the state report, college students can’t be expelled or given an out-of-school suspension only for attendance-related offenses.

The variety of assaults/threats/combating went up 31%, or by 290 incidences. There have been 941 such incidents 4 college years in the past and 1,231 offenses final college yr. Assaults and threats embrace these made on college students and adults.

The variety of assaults and threats in opposition to adults had been up 109% to 192 incidents final college yr, whereas assaults and threats in opposition to college students had been up 68% to 380 offenses.

Neil Becker, president of the Washington County Academics Affiliation, mentioned the safety assistants “will probably be an asset to the college system, and I actually assume will in all probability scale back a few of the points which might be going down in hallways and customary areas.

“And having an additional set of eyes within the constructing to look at and monitor is all the time a plus.”

It additionally helps to have educated safety assistants to guarantee the protection of scholars and workers when the college system has been struggling to keep up staffing in lots of areas, Becker mentioned.

What is going to the safety assistants do?

Sovine mentioned the unarmed safety assistants will alert college directors or college useful resource officers, whichever is most acceptable in a circumstance, after they see exercise that warrants it. The varsity system has college useful resource officers from Hagerstown Police and the Washington County Sheriff’s Workplace which might be primarily based at varied faculties and might serve a number of faculties.

The assistants’ jobs are to look at, speak and hear — to get to know college students and be proactive in stopping security issues from arising, college system officers mentioned.

“In lots of circumstances, they will be the primary line of dialog in the event that they see one thing that does not appear proper within the hallway at a time the place college students must be within the classroom,” Sovine mentioned.

Sovine mentioned he benefited from having two such positions when he was a principal at Monacan Excessive Faculty in Chesterfield County (Va.) Public Faculties from 2005 to 2009. These assistants constructed relationships with college students and had been “extremely efficient when it comes to decreasing incidents” in class settings, he mentioned.

There additionally had been safety assistants on the three excessive faculties in Frederick County, Va., the place Sovine labored for 11 years, together with as superintendent.

College students and workers ought to see the assistants within the hallways between lessons. In addition they will probably be in class parking heaps earlier than and after college and within the cafeteria throughout lunch, locations the place incidents happen extra usually at secondary faculties, Sovine mentioned.

When college students are in school, the assistants might be strolling the hallways or checking surveillance digicam footage to ensure college students are in lecture rooms.

Proulx mentioned the assistants will work as cluster groups to allow them to change into aware of different faculties, college students and workers on the campus and might again one another up. He cited North Excessive and Northern Center for instance.

The assistants’ hours are versatile in order that they have already helped at winter sporting occasions, together with the basketball playoffs in Williamsport, and will probably be seen at spring sports activities, Proulx mentioned.

The safety assistants put on charcoal or “spotlight yellow” polo shirts with “WCPS Safety Employees” on them or vibrant yellow jackets with “Safety” on them, Proulx mentioned.

What’s ‘verbal judo’ and the way does it assist de-escalate conditions?

Three weeks of coaching for safety assistants included studying WCPS insurance policies and procedures, evaluate and file digicam footage, the correct solution to de-escalate a state of affairs with out contact, and break up a combat — once more doing their greatest to keep away from contact, Proulx mentioned.

Coaching additionally included studying “verbal judo” by way of two college system staff who’re licensed instructors with George J. Thompson’s Verbal Judo Institute.

Coach Jeff Rowe, a pupil personnel employee who was an area high-school instructor for 12 years, described verbal judo as a persuasion course of to de-escalate the depth of a state of affairs to get a constructive final result.

Rowe and coach Tim Morrow, a coordinator of pupil and college assist, reviewed do’s and don’ts and role-played eventualities in entrance of the brand new staff earlier than the assistants bought an opportunity to strive it themselves.

Among the many issues emphasised was to be lively listeners and to point out that by not interrupting ands by way of physique language. That features not looking at a cellphone or laptop whereas somebody is speaking to you.

In addition they went over some issues to not say to somebody who’s upset. These included: “Settle down!” and “What’s your drawback?”

Telling somebody to settle down does not essentially loosen up them, and asking them what their drawback is implies it is their fault, mentioned Morrow, a former principal at Antietam Academy. Utilizing such language can also create a chasm when safety assistants try to construct relationships with college students.

Morrow additionally talked to the assistants about being empathetic. Everybody in a college setting — college students and workers — has introduced issues with them to highschool that day that may’t be seen. They might be receiving threatening texts, arriving in school hungry as a result of there was no meals at residence, or have a member of the family coping with a medical disaster or who misplaced a job.

So if a safety assistant comes throughout a pupil yelling within the corridor, there might be extra occurring that is inflicting that youth to be upset, Morrow mentioned.

Morrow mentioned he helped practice a number of college system staff in verbal judo final summer time and hopes to proceed the coaching throughout the college system.

The coaching has been utilized in different professions, together with regulation enforcement, 911 dispatchers, well being care staff, nationwide protection staff, airways and different companies, Morrow mentioned.

Among the many folks employed to be safety assistants are of us embarking on a second profession who’ve expertise with police departments, correctional companies, the Division of Juvenile Companies and Homeland Safety, Proulx mentioned.

What about elementary faculties?

Sovine mentioned his mid-year initiative to deal with pupil conduct points consists of including two conduct analysts, bringing the overall to 4 within the college system.

The conduct analysts may also help college students in any grade, however Proulx mentioned their foremost focus is elementary college students the place educators are seeing a few of the most extreme conduct points.

If a youthful pupil, like a kindergartner or first-grader, is exhibiting difficult behaviors, a conduct analyst assesses the state of affairs and gives helps for the coed, Sovine mentioned. As soon as these helps are profitable, the analyst reveals the instructor methods to assist the coed.

The analysts can also practice the complete college workers on methods to assist college students with conduct points, Sovine mentioned.

Sovine mentioned he hopes so as to add two extra analysts subsequent college yr, bringing the overall to 6.

The varsity board authorized its working funds on Tuesday night time for the fiscal yr beginning July 1. However it’s probably that board members must modify the funds earlier than the top of June.

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There may be nonetheless practically an $8 million hole between what the college board is asking the Washington County Commissioners for and the funds the county has proposed for the college system.

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