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Schools get training on different approach to student discipline

Posted at 5:10 PM, Nov 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-07 17:53:24-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Schools are learning how to take a different approach to disciplining students.

This week kicked off a yearlong training for school administrators, teachers and providers through the Positive School Discipline Initiative.

Traditionally, students with behavioral problems face punishments in school like suspensions, expulsions and arrests.

As part of the training, school leaders learn how to focus on why students act the way they do.

"It’s making sure teachers aren't just looking at the behavior but the student, and how can we get beyond the behavior and work with this child and move them along,” Aleicha Ostler, principal at Invent Learning Lab, said. “It's a big mindset shift, especially for people who didn't grow up in the same environment that some of our students did."

Participants include charter schools like Invent Learning Hub, as well as Indianapolis Public Schools, MSD of Warren Township, MSD of Decatur Township, Michigan City, Griffith Public Schools and Mississinewa Community Schools.

"We have six zip codes, two of which are high crime areas, so we want to be able to respond to our kids and our families to help them in tough times and in good times," James Taylor, director of student services at MSD of Warren Township, said. “It’s all about loving kids no matter who you are. You can make a difference.”

The approach to discipline doesn’t mean students aren’t held accountable, but rather, it pushes school leaders factor in things like trauma, a history of child abuse, or poverty.

“You have to understand the power of one,” Jim Sporleder, a national trainer with the program, said. “One caring adult can change a student’s life path. It’s a mind shift.”

Experts say if schools keep taking the traditional approach to discipline, children are more likely to end up in the criminal justice system and on the wrong path in life.

The training through the Positive School Discipline Initiative costs $4,500 to train seven employees for a year.

Trainees are then encouraged to train their colleagues at school.

Each trainee leaves with a stack of handouts including goals like building relationships with students, building student self-esteem, creating a calm classroom environment, and fostering a classroom with a family atmosphere.

Call 6 Investigates is digging into how black students are disciplined at higher rates than white students in Indiana — arrests, suspensions and expulsions.

Friday on and the RTV6 app, we're investigating why this discipline disparity exists and how it costs all of us money.