OCR continues to monitor LUSD disciplinary process

Representatives impressed with BC’s ‘positive’ and ‘calm’ campus


Claire Gilliland and Helen Le

After their resolution aiming to correct the disciplinary inequity between students of different races was reached, the Office for Civil Rights has continued to work with LUSD to ensure a healthy and productive environment at Bear Creek. On October 26, representatives visited Bear Creek’s campus and were impressed with what they found.

On October 25 and 26, the OCR sent two representatives to visit three Lodi Unified campuses: Manlio Silva Elementary School, Delta Sierra Middle School and Bear Creek High School. Director Laura Faer and civil rights attorney Blake Thompson checked in with these schools to monitor the district’s progress on following the resolution that had been agreed upon by LUSD and OCR last year.

Faer and Thompson met with staff that Principal Hillary Harrell selected, which included teachers from Instructional Leadership, Bear Creek’s PBIS group and Culture Club. They then met with interested community members before touring the school with Harrell. Harrell was also interviewed.

“They wanted to know what my plans are for the school over the next couple of years, about strengthening PBIS, about making our behavior intervention [program more productive],” Harrell said.

Harrell confirmed to the OCR representatives that the school is using the new behavioral intervention matrix that was established earlier this year. Although she was initially hesitant about the leniency of punishments for infractions, she says she is reassured due to the absence of repeat offenders.

“[The OCR representatives] did give some suggestions,” Harrell said. “They had some ideas for how we could make our behavior intervention more productive for students, that we could include more — what they call — restorative lessons, reflections, those kinds of activities within behavior intervention so that students are gaining more benefit from it.”

Positive Behavior Intervention Services (PBIS) leader and Conflict Mediation teacher Lisa Deeter has worked with Harrell to implement the new behavioral intervention matrix.

The Bruin Way is part of the positive thinking that Bear Creek is working to establish on its campus. Its goal is to work to develop behavioral expectations for students and address potential problems via interventions, such as Conflict Mediation, before students develop issues in their actions.

Although Conflict Mediation still works with students to resolve disputes, it has become a large part of discipline this school year due to the new behavioral intervention matrix.

“Maybe in the past, students would have been [suspended and] sent home, but now they’re coming through mediation as an intervention, so we’re busier,” Deeter said. “It’s just peer-led intervention, so if students are having problems with each other, if they’re having problems with maybe teachers, if they’re being bullied, any of those things — teachers can refer, admin can refer [and] students can refer.”

The behavioral intervention matrix is focused on reform and addressing the root of the problem in terms of students’ misbehavior, as the OCR had wanted to see at LUSD.

“Basically the idea of a restorative conference is creating repair from harm done,” Deeter said. “[OCR] were very excited that… we’re doing those things on our campus, because a lot of schools our size don’t.”

As a part of Culture Club, Social Science and AVID teacher Heather Blount also sat in for the entirety of the OCR meeting with faculty members. The meeting also involved how the climate of the school campus is changing, which is facilitated by the Culture Club. The Culture Club is comprised of teachers who volunteer to emphasize certain aspects of the Bruin Way.

“[The meeting] was all really positive and we expressed some concerns, but it was all from the area of ‘we love our school, we want it to go to that next level, we want our kids to feel safe here, we want our kids to feel welcome,’” Blount said.

During their visit, OCR also spoke with a student representative, ASB president Rajan Nathaniel, to develop an understanding Bear Creek’s disciplinary policy from a student perspective.

“I… explained that admin is doing a good job administering strict disciplines in order to promote a safe learning environment,” Nathaniel said. “These individuals who are partaking in [indiscretions] are also from certain socioeconomic groups, and… people in these socioeconomic groups are primarily of one ethnicity, so it’s not necessarily that there is discrimination, it’s just that these individuals… are being punished justly but at a higher rate.”

After their visit, the OCR attorneys presented their report to the district, which includes the superintendents and their cabinet. Blount said that Harrell reported back that the OCR was impressed with the positive climate on campus, which apparently wasn’t the case at many schools.

“They really appreciated being here and they were out during lunch so they got to see lunchtime, and we were having all that club stuff, so they said the campus was calm, very positive, and that we’re doing [good] work here,” Harrell said.