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Sixth Ward implements new suspension program

By Rebecca Burk / L’Observateur / February 4, 1998

VACHERIE – Students who misbehave at Sixth Ward Elementary may getsuspended, but they won’t be allowed to leave the school.

In mid-January the school implemented its new in-school suspensionprogram call Students Truly Are Responsible, or STAR.

The idea for the program belongs to principal Judy Ezidore, but Ezidorecreated a committee to work out all of the kinks. The committee,spearheaded by second-grade teacher Eva Knight, consisted of about 15teachers, parents and students, who began to plan the program inDecember.

“I think it’s a fabulous program,” Knight said. “Hopefully, we will begetting lots of decreases in behavior.”Ezidore said the opportunity to create the program came into play whenthe school lost a sixth-grade teacher. That left a class of 18 students.

Ezidore said the remaining two sixth-grade teachers selflessly took ninestudents each and dissolved the class.That freed up classroom space and money to pay the clinician to run thein-school suspension center.

Other extra funds to run the program came from Title One grant money.”We needed videos and games on dealing with self-esteem and anger,”Ezidore said.

There are many things a student has to do to be sentenced to a day inSTAR. There are different of categories of behavior – ranging from A to D.Ezidore said that she had to refer to the St. James Policy Manual forconsequences for students displaying behavior types A and B. But for thosedisplaying C and D behavior the punishment was left up to the school.Enter STAR.

Type C behavior includes interference with classroom duties, cuttingclass, cursing and cheating. Type D behavior includes not obeying theteacher or classroom rules, tardiness, eating in class, failure to dohomework, lack of correct supplies and sleeping in class.

The committee created another category, titled other, especially for theSTAR program. Ezidore said that category included bad behaviors thatwere common at Sixth Ward, including disturbing others in the classroom,chronic arguing, stealing, disrespecting authority, profanity, fighting,vandalism, throwing objects, urinating on other students, threats andharassment.

“We had problems with children that were chronically disruptive inkindergarten,” Ezidore said.

With only a few exceptions, Ezidore said a student can’t be immediatelysent to STAR. A discipline ladder, consisting of phone calls andconferences with the parent, has to be filled out by the teacher and givento Ezidore before she refers a student to STAR.

“If the child is fighting in kindergarten through third grade, there is noladder,” Ezidore said. “It’s an automatic STAR. If they are in fourththrough sixth grade, it depends on the circumstances and the severity ofthe fight.”

Ezidore said she considers all angles of the situation before she sentencesa student to a day in STAR.Once a student is sent to STAR, Ezidore said a parental conference must beset up.

“The parents are notified,” Knight said. “So whatever they did, Mama willfind out.”

And Ezidore said parents don’t have any excuses for not setting up aconference time. “If the parents don’t have a ride,” she said. “That’s noexcuse. We’ll send someone to go get them.”Ezidore said parents seem to think STAR is the best thing for theirchildren if they misbehave.

“I haven’t had any complaints,” Ezidore said. “I think they are pleasedbecause their children are still in school.”As if having a conference with their parents isn’t enough, while a studentis in STAR they aren’t allowed any contact with other students. They don’teat lunch with them, nor do they recess with them.

“I’ve seen children who have been there and say, ‘I’m not going back,'”Ezidore said.

The maximum time a student can be sentenced to STAR is two days. Only10 students a day can be placed in STAR, but Ezidore said the maximumthey have had to place at one time is five students. She added the averageis usually one or two students at a time.One of the best things about STAR is that the student is allowed to stay inschool and continue learning their studies, but they also gain valuableother tidbits of knowledge that will help them behave and stay out oftrouble.

“In the morning I go over the program and let the students know what toexpect,” Carliss Keller, clinician who is in charge of STAR, said. “Thenthey continue with their school lessons and in the afternoon we do ValueTalk.”

Value Talk allows the children to explore their anger to find out why theydid what they did. It also goes into conflict resolutions, which teaches thestudents alternatives to misbehaving.

“We don’t want to be just another program in place to say that we have anin-school suspension,” Ezidore said. “We want to reach the children sotheir behavior will improve.”

“It is a lot different in here than in the classroom,” Keller said. “Thereare less distractions. They don’t want to be in here.”

Ezidore said the program seems to be running smoothly, but the committeeis going to meet one Wednesday each month to evaluate it and work outany other kinks it may have.

“We are really pleased with what we have done,” Ezidore said. “But werealize that there are many changes that must be done.”

Assistant Superintendent Caldonia Ceasar said she hopes eventuallysimilar programs will be implemented in all St. James Parish schools.

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