BRISTOL, Tenn. — Bristol Tennessee Board of Education voted Monday night to alter its disciplinary policies so that teachers and administrators take possible trauma into account before punishing students via detention, suspension or expulsion.
On second reading, the board approved changes to its policy on student discipline. These changes specify that when disciplining students in pre-kindergarten or kindergarten, alternative disciplinary practices that encourage self-control, self-esteem and cooperation should be used rather than exclusionary discipline like detentions or suspensions, which are to be used as a last resort.
It also outlines discipline options for students at higher grade levels such as using restorative practices, techniques that encourage students to reflect on their actions and then take responsibility for fixing problems they caused, and counseling along with, but not limited to, more traditional and punitive forms of discipline like detention as well as in-school and out-of-school suspensions.
Jennifer Rouse, the school system’s supervisor of elementary curriculum and instruction, said over the summer teachers were trained to identify and respond to students who have had adverse childhood experiences, and some of the strategies they learned have already been put to use.
The board also approved on first reading changes to its policies on medications, work-based learning programs and alterations to student transcripts. Penny Jenkins, an administrative assistant for the schools, said the changes to policies were primarily made to stay in line with state codes and standards set by the Tennessee Department of Education.
In other business, Tom Sisk, the new director of schools, gave an update on how things have gone in his first 2½ months with the school system.
Sisk also talked about his plans for career and technical education, which would involve the school district and a local community college partnering with a local business to hire one of its employees to work part time as a technical education instructor for the college and school. He also discussed efforts to establish a classified employee evaluation process and his ongoing efforts to visit all the classrooms in the district. So far, he said he’s visited 172 classrooms.