New discipline program tested at DISD schools

The officer was fired, but people are still talking about the video of a South Carolina deputy seen on video yanking a high school girl from her chair and dragging her across a classroom floor.

The incident has created conversations across the country about how to handle trouble in the classroom.

A new approach to discipline being tested in six Dallas ISD schools.

It’s a program that started in San Antonio by an assistant principal. The driving force behind it is teachers taking time to know students before there is trouble, hopefully connecting with the students and avoiding big issues.

It’s centered on discipline discussions.

Medrano Middle School serves an at-risk student population. Discipline rates at the school are historically high.

But now the school is using circles, or holding discipline discussions, that start with a talking piece.

“If you do not have the talking piece, then your mouth is closed,” said teacher Alandra St. Clair. “This is just a way for us to respect the person who has the floor.”

It tests a program where students and teachers find common ground.

“Ask them questions, like, ‘What’s your favorite movie?’ and stuff like that to get to know them, and then if we're having discipline issues or anything like that that needs to be addressed, we'll do that as needed,” said teacher Sarah Stewart.

It’s called restorative discipline.

“And really what restorative discipline is is building relationships between the teacher and the students and among student to student,” said assistant principal Jason Wallace.

That includes respect agreements, student- to-student, student-to-teacher, teacher-to-student and all respect for school property.

At Medrano, it’s working.

“We've actually seen a major reduction in the number of students we sent to [in-school suspension] this year, and students we've sent to off-campus suspension,” said Wallace.

The program holds the students accountable for their own words and actions.

At Medrano, there's been a 92 percent decrease in in-school suspensions compared to the first eleven weeks of last school year.

In the ‘90s, Texas went to pretty much zero tolerance -- if a child acted up in class, he or she was sent to the office and then in school suspension or sent home.

This new approach moves away from that.

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