Chaos in the Classroom: One school district’s response

The Investigators

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Last year, over 22,000 fights were reported in South Carolina – a 13 percent increase from the previous year.

A Count on 2 investigation revealed that Charleston County School District leads the Tri-county area in school fights, with some schools reporting numbers in the hundreds.

In the first installment of this piece, a family counselor shared what factors cause violence and aggression in young children. Now, CCSD officials detail the programs that have been put in place to combat fighting in the classroom.

The Director of Alternative Programs and Services, Jennifer Coker, says they noticed the increase in reported fights between 2015-2018 and have introduced new programs to curb the trend.
Some of these programs include:

  • Positive Behavior and Support (PPIS) is a way for schools to explain expectations for behavior and teach students what they should and should not do as well as providing positive reinforcement for good behavior.
  • Second Step is a program that provides social skill development through a structured curriculum for pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten aged students.
  • A program highlighting ‘restorative practices’ is focused on conflict resolution and relationship building.

The programs are meant to focus on communication, decision making, and expression which are areas that children often struggle with.

“We really realized our kids didn’t really have the skills we needed them to have for communication which is at the crux for most kids getting into trouble.”

Coker adds that the programs have paid off, citing a ten-percent decrease in reported fights this school year.

“It brings more consistency to help kids understand the steps to doing the right thing when they may not have known them before.”

Chicora Elementary, a school that topped the list for the 2017-2018 school year with 287 reported fights, has seen one hundred fewer fights this year. A contributing factor to this decrease is the introduction of five Student Concern Specialists who move around the district depending on individual elementary school’s needs.

Michael Reidenbach, the Director of Security and Emergency Management, says the top priority of the district is ensuring a safe, beneficial learning environment for all students.

“There are those of us in the district and throughout our schools who want nothing more than to keep our kids safe and help them be more productive citizens.”

As for whether Coker believes the school district is doing enough to reduce fighting in schools, she says they still have a ways to go in changing the culture of schools.

“Change is slow, but it is positive and we do feel like we will see a significant change in the next few years.”

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