Chrisman adds dean of students to administration

Restorative justice is about teaching responsibility with discipline to youths

By GARY HENRY ghenry@prairiepress.net
Posted 7/27/20

CHRISMAN — Chrisman band instructor Jeff Nelson is taking on the additional role of dean of students, and he has designed a new disciplinary approach for dealing with students.

“The …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

E-mail or username
Password
Log in

Chrisman adds dean of students to administration

Restorative justice is about teaching responsibility with discipline to youths

Posted

CHRISMAN — Chrisman band instructor Jeff Nelson is taking on the additional role of dean of students, and he has designed a new disciplinary approach for dealing with students.

“The vast majority of kids in this school won’t need it,” said Nelson. “Those who do mess up will probably only need to see the dean once.”

Nelson discussed his philosophy for dealing with students during the Monday, July 13, Chrisman school board meeting. What he hopes to establish is a multi-layered intervention to modify behavior before jumping to punitive measures such as suspension or expulstion.

For Nelson, it is about educating students so they understand what is expected of them. He explained teachers and administrators have been trained in techniques for maintaining classroom order but students have not had the same training.

His approach starts with the premise that every student has two connected responsibilities at school.

The first responsibility is to learn. That means every student has a right to learn and every teacher has a right to teach.

The second responsibility is getting along with others.

If a student is disruptive in class, that violates both responsibilities because it prevents the teacher from teaching, violates other students’ right to lean and is evidence the student is not getting along with others.

Restorative justice is another element of his approach. This means a student that messes up has a chance to make amends.

“I was raised if you did something wrong to a person, you had to make it right,” said Nelson.

Such an approach is fluid rather than having fixed punishments. Nelson said what happens will vary by case and the severity of the offense and resolution will frequently be determined by a negotiation between the dean, the offender, that student’s parents, plus the teacher or an aggrieve student must agree to the nature of the restorative act.

Parent involvement is a goal even if it is nothing more than a call to inform a parent their child was referred for discipline. Nelson said parents will get called every time there is an incident brought to the dean’s attention.

He also stressed students sent for discipline will have a right to tell their side of the story and complaints will be investigated.

Something he wants to avoid are suspensions, which he said are not effective for a student that does not want to be in school in the first place and are detrimental to student learning.

“The biggest problem is students losing time in class,” said Nelson. “I will try to get them back into class with the understanding that actions have consequences.”

A point system measuring behavior provides the program’s teeth.. Each student starts every quarter with 100 points, which are deductible based on the severity of an offense. Students run the risk of lost privileges if their point level drops below 80.

Students with declining points may find themselves eating lunch with Nelson in his office instead of socializing with friends in the lunchroom. Other possibilities are the loss of a parking permit, the ability to participate in extracurricular activities or not being allowed to waive final exams.

“If a student falls below the point level, the dean will be talking to the coaches about the problem of in-school behavior,” said Nelson. “Education is the most important thing.”