Following a visit by the Office of Civil Rights, Principal Hillary Harrell has been tasked with checking-up on teachers with high numbers of referrals.
The issue she and her staff discovered and had to resolve was that their data may have been unreliable.
“My concern and my worry was that the information wasn’t accurate,” Harrell said. “I can’t really say this one teacher is submitting more referrals than another teacher when it could have been a luck of the draw that the admin who’s over that kid didn’t get on top of it.”
Harrell and assistant principals Julie Hummel and Dennis To worked to confirm the total number referrals for each staff member until they were finally confident in their numbers.
Harrell says she is now ready to begin discussing behavioral intervention and classroom discipline with the teachers who give out the most referrals.
“Now that I feel that I do have accurate information I will be meeting with teachers,” Harrell said. “The conversation will start first with what supports do you need and what help do you need.”
The teacher with the highest number of referrals, over 40 from the last quarter alone, is mathematics and technologies teacher Jamiel Khan.
“I have a lot of referrals one because of the type of class that I teach,” Khan said. “Specifically, they are all from one period and all the same students every time.”
He says that there has been a drastic increase from last year when he only gave out around two referrals.
“[Admin] seems pretty on it with these students,” Khan said. “Usually by the next day it has already been taken care of.”
Biology teacher Jerry Myers and mathematics teacher Vanessa Alvarez have given the second and third highest number of referrals from teachers respectively.
“I try really hard to give the students a warning,” Alvarez said. “But then they choose to do [the behavior] again so I have to give them a referral because I can’t just keep warning them.”
Besides the talks that Harrell plans to have with the top referrers, history teacher Heather Blount and Italian teacher Justin Ehrenberg are making sure that new teachers are familiar with what disciplinary actions to take.
“We help [new teachers] with understanding how the discipline system at Bear Creek applies to their class,” Blount said. “What to do when you need to fill out a referral, de-escalating issues where a student is upset instead of responding in a way that is going to make them more upset.”
One thing Harrell pointed out about the breakdown of referrals was that the sophomore class had noticeably higher numbers than others.
“[Sophomores] struggled last year as freshmen and we’re trying to retain as many as we can and we’re trying to support them,” Harrell said. “This is a class of students that behaviorally can really push against boundaries.”
Khan said that the classes he constantly has to give out referrals to mostly consist of 9th and 10th graders.
“We need to have a honest conversation as a staff about the supports that we need and the help that we need,” Harrell said.