The Kingsport Times News in effect posed that question to the five people seeking three at-large seats on the Kingsport Board of Education. Below are the answers they gave to the third of five questions addressing education issues in the Model City. Their responses to the other questions will be presented over the next two days.
Discipline issues, from cyberbullying to fighting and flaunting school rules on things like vaping, are often a hot topic with educators, the general public and in media coverage of schools.
What do you think are the biggest disciplinary problems in Kingsport schools?
Julie Brinker Byers
Not being in the schools on a daily basis, I do not know. Hearing conversations with people when I go to schools to do science demos, I think they differ based on the school or at least the age. I think elementary schools have issues with attendance but that isn’t the students’ fault. Classroom behaviors are also an issue in elementary where kids get unruly. They are not violent but just do not conform to the rules of the classroom. I believe the middle schools are facing issues with bullying and vaping. With many kids having devices, much of the bullying is done via text or Snapchat.
The high school has issues with bullying, vaping, and tardiness. In a smaller sense but still ever critical is the exposure to drugs and even sexting. While these issues are not in every classroom, they are destructive behaviors now and for the future of these students. Vaping started to get people off smoking and the harmful effects of nicotine, but now the juuls are small and “cool” and also contain nicotine and other unhealthy components. Bullying now can lead to more aggressive and harmful actions and those being bullied suffer psychological and physiological effects.
Students and parents don’t respect the positions of teachers and administrators in today’s world.
Liv. H. Detwiler
Our region has a high rate of children affected by Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). We have an unusually high number of kids in foster care and kids dealing with long-term complications of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (developmental delays, hyperactivity, learning disabilities and attention disorders). ACEs have a direct negative impact on students’ abilities to achieve. Early intervention to help students learn coping mechanisms and strategies is critical to their future success, and in turn lessens long-term behavioral issues in schools. Our schools must be well-positioned to help everyone succeed. The ratio of assistance (social workers, guidance counselors, nurses, teachers’ aides) to students-in-need should reflect the reality of our numbers (www.liv4kingsport.com).
Technology presents an array of exciting new possibilities in education, but continuous access to social media and mobile technology poses just as many disadvantages. Texts/social media notifications can quickly derail the progress of a class period. Multitasking results in lower quality notes, lower retention of information, and lower test scores. School administration must continue to seek professional development opportunities for staff to explore solutions as to how to use devices advantageously in class, and how to maximize authentic student engagement thus diminishing the desire/time available to access mobile devices during class.
Our academic, music, sports, arts, STEM, and other programs are a crown jewel to the community and Kingsport. We strive to challenge our students to aim higher and think bigger. We, like every school system in America, have areas of improvement. Technology allows us to advance our academic abilities across various platforms. But with these abilities and advancements come challenges. Online bullying and texting is possibly one of the largest issues we face at the high school and middle school level. Addressing and correcting this issue, is a community effort. We must teach our children to raise their level of speech and at all time and be respectful. When I see disrespectful texts, videos and online posts directed at members and leaders of the community, I wonder if this is not the root of the issue. It is appalling to see the level of disrespect exhibited by many in our community online. It is this behavior, I fear, that is the reason why we face these challenges in our high school and middle school.
Our schools must maintain environments where all children are enabled to learn to the best of their abilities. Identifying discipline problems is an area where being out of the classroom for thirteen years puts me on a sharp learning curve. My retirement from teaching in 2006 was just on the cusp of the myriad of social problems that households disintegrated by drug abuse have produced. That particular health crisis unfortunately has to have a significant impact on the social, emotional and academic skills of many children entering schools. I know first-hand the negative effects that entire classes of children endure when a small number of children continuously require behavior attention from their teachers. I look forward to discussions with administrators, teachers, school resource officers, nurses, counselors and parents to identify what these problems currently are and assessing how well we are addressing them system-wide.