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School district sees bump in ‘disruptive behavior’

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Feb 23, 2024

The School District of Lee County has seen an increase in disruption, insubordination and disrespect and skipping classes since the 2019 school year.

The information was presented to the school board this week as part of a discuss on campus safety and how campus safety is perceived.

Safety, Security & Emergency Management Executive Director David Newlan discussed the KPI 5.1 score card, which is based on a scale of one to five. He said they are looking for a four to five rating of students and teachers feeling safe.

The accreditation survey questions were “adults make us feel safe for elementary students,” “adults make decisions to keep us safe for secondary students” and “at my institution, we think of everyone’s safety when making decisions” for the teacher survey.

“A raw baseline was created from the spring accreditation data,” Newlan said.

The raw baseline was 88% for grades 3-5 students, 71% for grades 6-8, 65% for grades 9-12 and 88% for employees. Newlan said the four-year performance target is to go up 2% each year.

They look at layers of security at every school site — such as monthly drills, OPENGATE weapons detection system, School Resource Officers, Guardian Program, law enforcement access to schools, access control and auto locks and training. Newlan said there are zone security inspections done at every school site to complete a school security compliance report.

Once the fall survey responses are collected in October, he said they will look at the level and individual schools to break down the responses that were a three or below.

“We must take a deeper look by follow-up questions we have created,” Newlan said, so they can make necessary changes before the next survey.

Student behavior

The presentation also dove deeper into student crime, violence, and disruption.

Constituent Services and Student Discipline Director Ron Iarussi said the official baseline is 4.79% of the total student population, which represents 4,749 incidents.

The top five School Environmental Safety Incident Report incidents are fighting, tobacco, drug use/possession, simple battery, and disruption on campus.

Fighting went from .5% in 2019-2020 to .8% in the 2022-2023 school year.

Tobacco saw an increase from .5% in the 2019-2020 school year to 1.1% in the 2022-2023 school year.

Drug use and possession saw an increase from .3% in the 2019-2020 school year to .9% in the 2022-2023 school year. There was an increase to .7% during the 2021-2022 school year.

Simple battery also saw an increase from .2% in the 2019-202 school year to .6% in the 2022-2023 school year.

Disruption on campus saw a decrease from .2% in 2019-2020 to .1% in the 2022-2023 school year.

“The number of incidents have increased, but increased proportionately for population,” Iarussi said.

With that said, disruptive behavior in the local codes have seen a significant increase from 8.2% from 2019 to 17.2% in 2022-2023.

Insubordination and disrespect also increased from 8.2% to 13.9 percent for the same time frame and skipping classes increased from 4.5% to almost 9%.

The referrals are now documented into FOCUS.

“It’s no longer a paper process of getting loss. When you refer an issue to another individual, you transfer the responsibility to them now to deal with it,” Superintendent Dr. Christopher Bernier said.

The goal overall is to see the numbers continue to decline, even when the population increases.

“We specifically chose to present the information as local codes because some of the expression of the board. When you think about some things that impact teacher and employee feelings about wanting to be in school — classroom disruption, insubordination and whether or not kids are in the classroom. (Those are) some factors that drive a less than positive feeling about the work environment,” Bernier said.

Iarussi said they will be making more recommendations of restorative practices they are working on in the near future, adding they will tie some of those restorative practices to see the effects and measure the effectiveness.