Lander County School District will implement a new program at Battle Mountain schools this year, stated Superintendent Russell Klein.
Klein stated the biggest change is the Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) which will be addressing the mental health of the child as well as the academic.
There will be two counselors and three social workers this year, plus an ISS person in each building. ISS has traditionally been “In School Suspension” but will now be “In School Support,” making a change in philosophy.
“If a kid does something naughty and needs to be taken out of class, we’d put him in suspension,” said Klein. “But the change that we’re pushing for this year in the MTSS model is that we’re addressing behavior not from an approach of punishment but one of re-teaching. Instead of trying to penalize kids, we want to give schools the support to help re-teach behaviors that are going to be more successful in class.”
Klein stated that when a kid does something wrong, traditionally parents and teachers want to punish them with a punishment severe enough that they won’t do it again, but that punishment rarely changes behavior.
“It might get compliance, but it doesn’t motivate for change of behavior,” said Klein. “We need to teach and re-teach students; help them shape correct behaviors.”
Klein said the school board has been very supportive to add all the new positions because they believe in giving the teachers and schools the support they need to do things differently.
“I believe, and research has shown, this is a better way to help teach the kids,” stated Klein. Sometimes a child will need to be removed from the classroom for a period of time but the ISS now has the personnel and the resources to help retrain them.
Klein gave an example, “If a given student is continually bullying, then part of the ISS might be that they will watch some videos on school bullying, go through some worksheets, and understand the effect it has on other people and how victims feel.”
Klein stated one of America’s greatest failed experiments was a 20- or 30-year period of the “three strikes and you’re out” law in California where hundreds of thousands of people were sent to prison for life, and it did not change behavior. “They came in with an absolute sledgehammer of consequences, and it didn’t work. Hundreds of thousands of lives and families were impacted through this severe consequence, and it didn’t do what it was supposed to do. They finally realized that and un-did it. That is the greatest failed experiment I think this country has ever had. More punishment doesn’t work.”
All three schools will have additional mental health professionals with the counselors and social workers, and the ISS people will have a classroom in each building for support.
Klein said, “Many times, when you look at the kids who struggle academically, if you were to look at their life and the dysfunction they’re coming from, you’d realize that the academic is not the problem. They have many more challenges in life that teachers just don’t see. It really is a desire to embrace the whole child. We’ve done a really good job of approaching academics and instruction, but it’s making a change from punishment to re-teaching, just like we would if it was math or science.”