Tulare Joint Union High School District looks to hire four behavioral specialists, takes different proactive approach to addressing difficult student behavior issues
TULARE – As many schools struggle with heightened behavioral issues, the Tulare Joint Union High School District will take an additional step forward in being proactive by hiring more support services.
On April 20, the Tulare Joint Union High School District board of trustees approved the addition of four new positions to provide additional behavioral support for students. The positions are currently flying and the four individuals will start next year at each comprehensive site as well as Technical Preparatory school. It is a proactive position to help the students who may be disruptive but not detrimental to the classroom learning environment.
The district was also granted the Community Schools Grant which will allow the district to hire an additional position keeping all behavioral support specialists moving together toward one goal. Superintendent Lucy Van Scyoc said the district is excited about this opportunity to provide their students with yet another layer of support.
“[They become somewhat of] a life coach who works with our students and helps them address [their] behaviors,” Van Scycoc said. “We haven’t had the behavior specialists that work with all the students before. We’ve had them where they work with just our high needs behavior students through IRC [intervention resource classrooms], but this will be exciting.”
The behavioral support specialists will be trained in restorative justice practices. This is a different approach aimed at restoring and repairing relationships between individuals. They will be working with students who have a hard time controlling their behavior. As the district already has an IRC program in place for students who struggle with behavioral issues, this program is to prevent students who are on the path to being destructive from getting to a point of demerit, suspension or expulsion.
According to Van Scycoc, students who cause minor disruptions in the classroom will be flagged by their teacher on the online platform Aries. This is known as the “pre-referral process.” Students could be flagged for being defiant, not following directions, arguing with other students or any other similar behavior. From there, the behavioral specialist will find a time to connect with that student, pull them aside and work with them in groups of other students on their behavior.
“Our goal [is] to be proactive. Before kids get to the point where we’re suspending them, that there have been interventions and that we’ve actually worked on what it means to be respectful and to behave,” Van Scyoc said. “And if they have a hard time controlling their behavior, what strategies can they use? Because right now we’re in high school, the real world is not too far away.”
The district has recently hired several additional staff and created the Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support (PBIS) program to help focus on the social emotional needs of students, especially coming back from the pandemic. Several of those intervention programs in place include the IRC program for students who struggle with behavior; the response to intervention (RTI) for students struggling academically; additional psychologists on each campus; teach social emotional lessons in the classroom and more.
She said adding one specialist to each site will be a good place to start and will allow the district to expand to their general student population. Currently they have two behavioral specialists at each site who work in the intervention resource classrooms (IRC).
Van Scyoc said the district has definitely seen a rise in behavioral issues since the pandemic. However, overall at the high school level it is typically not as severe as the elementary or middle school level. Students typically build stronger relationships with teachers in high school so there is a different level of respect. However, Van Scyoc did say at break and lunchtime is when students act out the most. The behavioral specialists will also be able to be out and about on breaks to help add an extra layer of support for students and teachers.
Community Schools Grant
To top it all off and bring the pieces together, the district was also granted the Community Schools Grant. It is a two year grant for $200,000 and will allow the district to hire a full time community schools director position. The director will work district wide with all the behavioral specialists taking a comprehensive approach to make sure all the supports are working together. Some of those supports could even be with their outside partners like the Boys and Girls Club, the Chamber of Commerce or Youth Services Bureau or other things.
“We have a lot of supports in place, but making sure that we have a cohesive plan and that it is systematic, so that no one is falling through the cracks,” Van Scyoc siad. “And [make sure] the supports that we have in place really do support each other and are not competing.”