WCSD talks discipline and donkeys
School board members talked about some new ideas at Monday’s committee meetings.
Officials at Beaty-Warren Middle School have inquired about alternatives for student discipline.
In particular, “one of the things they want to do is institute a youth court,” Superintendent Amy Stewart said. “Like any middle school would tell you, they have a lot of very minor discipline issues.”
“They want to look at a student-led approach,” Stewart said. “We are seeing more districts go this way.”
If a change is going to be made, “we want to make sure we get off on the right foot,” she said. “We would be veering away from our discipline policy.”
Board members had numerous questions about the idea.
“I want to make sure we’re not veering toward some other type of bullying practice,” Board President Donna Zariczny said.
She expressed concerns about the relationships between the students who appear before the court and the students on the court.
Board member Arthur Stewart asked how the court members would be appointed and what kinds of punishments would be available to it.
“We have everything laid out for discipline,” board member Marcy Morgan said. “How does that work with peers? How consistent is it?”
Another board member asked if the students up for disciplinary action would appear in person or would remain anonymous. Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment Eric Mineweaser said the proposal is that the students would appear in person.
“We would have to do some research on the things they would like to do other than the traditional in-school suspension and out-of-school suspension,” Mineweaser said.
Officials said there are problems with in-school suspension — students aren’t responding to it as a deterrent and there sometimes aren’t enough substitutes in the district to hold the program.
Board members also wanted to know what kinds of punishable offenses would be heard by the court.
“There are some infractions that allow for the discretion of the principal,” Amy Stewart said.
She said the district “does not want to put a kibosh” on outside-the-box thinking, but “this is big.”
“They did give us a preliminary sketch of what they are looking at doing,” Mineweaser said. “I appreciate they’re thinking outside the box on addressing some of the disciplinary issues.”
“We would like to hear it at a committee,” committee chairman Joe Colosimo said.
Principal Shannon Yeager said the team would have a proposal ready for the March 30 Curriculum, Instruction, and Technology meeting.
Board member Mary Passinger asked administration about the decision not to allow schools to hold donkey basketball as a fundraiser.
She said the event in which teams of students, school officials, and community members played basketball while riding on donkeys was successful in both raising funds and spreading good cheer in the past. Other games involved teams of local ministers, attorneys, and doctors.
“What I would like to see happen, if there’s a group that would really like to do it, give it a try,” Passinger said. “I don’t think it’s fair that something that was that successful, that is done, is no longer allowed to be done.”
She said the district stopped holding the events after one local person complained and the district was protested by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), but that Corry Area School District still holds the events.
“If you Google it, you’re going to get 50-50 – folks supporting it and folks hating it,” Amy Stewart said. “We decided we would not put ourselves in a positions to be controversial. I tried to keep us out of that sort of thing.”
“I understand you don’t want to be in a confrontational position,” Passinger said.
She said law enforcement agents played in one of the games she recalled. “It was awesome to watch,” she said. “These kids were interacting with policemen in a totally different environment.”
Stewart said there are other ways to have community involvement and raise funds without donkeys.
“There’s nothing in the rules that says we can’t have donkeys?” Colosimo said.
“Any reason to believe it will be controversial?” Morgan asked.
“I do believe that,” Stewart said.
“I believe that,” board member Elizabeth Huffman agreed.
Arthur Stewart said he was on board if Passinger wanted to get the donkey basketball ball rolling.
“I’m so sick of the PC and the woke,” he said. “What do we sacrifice for that?”
“We live in an area where the Amish operate using horses,” Stewart said. “For thousands of years we rode mules and used horses.”
“If you want to advance this at some point, Mary, I’ll vote with you.”