LAND O’LAKES — Pasco County superintendent Kurt Browning has a message for parents: Teach your kids how to behave in school.
Students who don’t will face the possibility of increased penalties, Browning said Tuesday during a school board meeting. That includes expulsion recommendations for those who receive referrals for one Level 3 serious offense, such as a physical attack, weapon possession or sexual harassment, or two Level 2 offenses, for actions such as disruptive behavior, fighting and defying school personnel.
The district began recommending expulsion for “serious offenses” in March. It did so after receiving complaints that its relaxed approach to discipline, adopted as students returned after time away because of the pandemic, was not working.
Most of the students referred for expulsion accepted reassignment to virtual classes instead, officials said. As of May 17, the most recent data available, 128 students received alternative placement in lieu of expulsion, while six were expelled.
Browning expected a message to go out to families in the next few days reiterating the importance of proper behavior in school.
“We had over 60,000 referrals last year in the school district,” Browning said, adding that 40,000 is a more usual number. “I will blame it on kids not being taught proper behavior before they get to the classroom.”
He said teachers, bus drivers and other staff members who interact daily with students should not have to cope repeatedly with unruly children, given the important jobs they have to do.
Board members offered their full support.
“The No. 1 reason teachers I have talked to are considering leaving or have left is discipline,” board member Alison Crumbley said. “We have to address it.”
Crumbley suggested it’s also a reason the district is struggling to hire into vacant positions. Officials said the district had 354 open teaching positions and 55 unfilled bus driver jobs.
Board chairperson Cynthia Armstrong said she had received a call from the parent of a teacher, who talked about the lack of respect children are showing for educators and other employees.
“That is something we really need to put an emphasis on,” Armstrong said. “We do need to give more immediate disciplinary support to teachers,” so they can focus on education.
Browning said he doesn’t want students put out of school. But they must understand “there are consequences to your actions.”
• • •
Sign up for the Gradebook newsletter!
Every Thursday, get the latest updates on what’s happening in Tampa Bay area schools from Times education reporter Jeffrey S. Solochek. Click here to sign up.