Opening Statement



Sunday, 12 February 2012

New! Discipline Reporting Online?

As my regular readers have probably guessed by now, I am a high tech junky. Yup, I'm hooked. If you were at the board roll out for the Smart board computers last week, you would've seen me lined up eagerly to get a laptop. Then you'd have found me sitting in the front row for the first in-service on what this new board technology can help us do in Special Education. If you read my January post on telephone voting you'd have noticed I worked to forward a friendly amendment to have our unit step another rung up the technological ladder for our election this spring. So it should come as little surprise that I am now going to tout the new electronic discipline incident form finally launched by our board over the past month or so.


Our TSU Joint Safe Schools Committee [JSS]has been working for a few years now with the TCDSB to create a useful, user friendly and effective way to fill out and submit student discipline forms on line and according to the Ministry of Education's Safe School regulations. This is reflected in our co-authored Agreement of Principles you'll find on the opening screen. I know. I know. Only a teacher could be intrigued and excited about a development like this. Student wrong doers beware! Ha. Be that as it may it is a big step forward in helping us follow and implement a coherent progressive discipline strategy in an easy to follow way.


So far you should've received electronic copies of two documents; said Agreement of Principles, and the step by step PDIR [Progressive Discipline Incident Report] guide on how to use the new system, in your board email. Let's examine how they can be helpful for teachers, administration and students alike. To provide balance let's also examine some possible contentious issues and improvements as well.


Okay, here's a brief rundown on the steps. You enter the TCDSB Intranet, look across 3 columns to the Applications column, then scroll down to "Progressive Discipline Reporting Forms" link and click. The opening screen shows the Agreement of Principals developed by the TDSB and TSU Joint Safe Schools Committee. At the bottom are the two links main links for the "Incident Reports" and "Reporting Form".


The "Reporting Form" is a Ministry of Education requirement for any serious incident that violates the terms of the Safe School Act, and might require expulsion. These include threats, physical and sexual assaults, robbery, trafficking and so on. Our board has added vandalism, bullying and swearing at a teacher, also serious and repeated misconduct. See the form for the complete list. Please note it is MANDATORY to fill out and submit one of these forms when any of these discipline incidents happen, anywhere in the school, at a school activity, or on a school bus! I'm not too sure everybody knows or does that. Do you? More on this later.


The "Incident Reports" link takes you to a locally developed form covering a wide range of other discipline concerns including classroom behaviour, attendance, habitual neglect of duty, inappropriate comments and  improper use of electronic equipment [ie; cellphones in class]. The Safe School incidents are also listed there. Please see the form for a complete list of the incidents as there are a lot more. When you click the Incident Reporting link you will see a list of your own students each semester. You also have the option to see a complete list of all the students at your school. The drop down box to activate this option is at the top right of your screen.


When you click on a student's name you will be directed to an onscreen form to fill out. The incident may require suspension or another type of office follow-up. There is a checklist of mitigating circumstances they will might need to consider, the actions you have taken, and of course boxes for a brief factual description of the incident, your name and those of the witnesses and the alleged victim and perpetrator involved, the time and location, date and so on.


As the Statement of Principles states these forms can be filled out on line or by hard copy, because many of our teachers still do not have timely access to a school computer. A verbal report may also be made, which of course may be absolutely necessary right away in a serious situation. Investigation and detailed reporting of the incident is the duty of the administration. Further discussion of the incident with administration may be required, and administrative actions and follow-up should be provided in a "timely," "promptly" manner to you,  once you click the bottom box for it to be "referred to administration".


This last point is very interesting. It provides you with a progressive discipline option to follow in less serious incidents, let's say attendance, cellphone use, or other various acts of classroom misconduct and so on, before you send your form to the office. Indeed, you don't have to send the form right away. You can save them on line, listing the actions you have taken, such as warnings, a discussion, detention, phone call home, a parent conference, or what have you. If the problem still persists you then send them all in at once to the office where it's pretty much a slam dunk for them to act effectively. The proper progressive discipline steps have all been followed and documented. The student has had ample opportunity to change their behaviour, so now the administration can act swiftly and decisively from here with a suspension or some other suitable strong disciplinary action. The case has all ready been made with sufficient evidence to support doing so.


So, it all sounds pretty good eh? Yup, just a little something I thought up myself....heh, heh....er, not! Actually our TSU JSS [Joint Safe Schools Committee] has worked with the TCDSB for a few years on this, as the legislation was clarified, the forms developed and principles discussed to both our and the board's satisfaction. I worked for two years on the project, but it was this year's JSS team including Teresa Placha, Lou Trinchi and President Rene Jansen who finally nailed down all our collective hard work for you the teachers. So there you go, it's up and running now. Of course there are still some problems.. Nothing is ever perfect. Let me list a few from my own involvement in the project.


Where you aware of these options? The PDIR manual? The Agreement of Principals? The Ministry of Education Safe Schools form? Have you ever seen or used the online or hard copy versions? One fears in many cases perhaps not. In servicing and accessibility is a problem our joint committee has discussed at length with the board. In principle it's all set up and running now, and everybody has been advised accordingly. I'm sure the good intent is there but it would be interesting to see how widely it is actually being used. I hope I am wrong!


If not then maybe more further professional development is necessary? This is big folks! Everybody, staff and administration needs to get on board with the program. Indeed the whole process isn't something anybody at the board or TSU thought up for lack of something better to do. There are strong legal requirements from the Ministry of Education for the Safe School legislation to be followed! One could end up in pretty hot water if they are not, including possible legal action, or referrals to the Ontario College of Teachers. Should the progressive discipline model and reporting requirements under the Safe School Act not be followed correctly your job or even worse could be on the line! The school board and your school administration could get in big trouble, if they don't follow the legislation too!

Another major concern for us as teachers is access to all the discipline incident records for the students at our school, not just those we teach. When you click on a student's name, their picture will show up. That's good for identification purposes, but then so is a copy of the yearbook. Bottom line is that the only other info available is how many incident forms have been filled out for them. That can be useful in determining if we are dealing with a first time offender, or a student with a history of infractions. The problem here is that we don't have access at a glance to what the other discipline incident reports were for. Were they for lates or skips? Cellphone issues? Or were they for something much more serious like threats or fights? That can make a big difference! We encounter students throughout the school, most of them not our own, in the course of our on call duties, or performing supervision, let's say when they are outside our class when they shouldn't be. This unresolved issue could very much affect our own safety and those of the students in our care!


Unfortunately, an ongoing debate continues over privacy of information. There doesn't seem to be any easy answers from either the teacher's or the school board's point of view. Think of the "fresh start" students transferred to your school after a serious incident. You very well might not have any idea who they are or if they pose a serious risk to you or the other students when you are dealing with a disciplinary incident in the cafeteria, hallway, or schoolyard. I'm sure there are many other examples you can think of too. The question remains, do privacy rights trump our right to safety and security at our workplace, the school? 


Unfortunately it may take a precedent setting legal case before that is clear. TSU and the board have taken different positions while developing the new form. Although I would disagree with not providing full disclosure to any teacher who might be at risk, I can understand their concern with the legal intricacies of the rights of disclosure under the law. It's the proverbial argument about the rights of the individual verses those of the larger group. With Canada's contentious young offender legislation in mind, I can understand why a very cautious approach might be desirable until this is further clarified. I also shudder to think what might happen in the meantime, if not at our schools, then elsewhere to some innocent student or teacher victim faced with a potentially dangerous individual they know nothing about.

At our different schools teachers and admin alike have often had their own local approach to reporting and investigating problems over the years. Disciplinary actions have varied too. One can see how some of us might feel like these "PDIF" and "Safe Schools Reporting Form" requirements just interfere with what might've worked well for us in the past. However, we are entering a whole new age. School discipline has become a complicated systematic legal issue we can't ignore, or just wish away. Failure to deal with it correctly can have very dire consequences for all concerned. The simpler more direct methods are now long gone along with the seemingly simpler times of year's past.


These days we all face a huge mountain of paperwork at school. I personally believe we must inevitably head towards a paperless society. The new technology that is becomingly increasingly common at school suggests that may for practical reasons be coming sooner rather than later. When done on line our progressive discipline procedures and reports become a lot more streamlined, and easier to document and act upon, rather than relying on the cabinets full of paper files and the endless verbal exchanges it's taken over the past few years to deal with a problem.


In some of our inner city schools, the problems we are dealing with can be a lot more serious than in others, although there is ample argument to be made that the same are happening in other schools everywhere too. Many teachers are increasingly dealing with very serious problems involving gangs, drugs, fights, weapons, well you name it. Bullying is now recognized as an important legal issue, and it seems to cut across all the socio-economic lines between and in our schools. Perhaps it always has.

Canadians claim to place great importance on law and order, but everywhere that now seems to be breaking down. However, it's also been argued that the past was full of different injustices and abuses unless you were from a nice middle class white bread family like on "Leave It To Beaver" or "My Three Sons".Perhaps that was even just a television myth of what the societal status quo and our families were supposed to be like, even when they were being first broadcast into our homes at night. Was it really like that for blacks, Asians, Italians, Quebecois, aborigines or the poor fifty years ago? At any rate the reality of the situation is that is not what we are dealing with at school today, nor will it be anytime in the foreseeable future, if in fact it ever where the case for all Canadians.

As far as our current situation goes at school here in Toronto today, the new electronic discipline incident reporting forms are a step in the right direction to carry out our mandated Safe Schools legislation requirements, all the the remaining challenges I've mentioned notwithstanding. I would argue it is a big step in trying to establish some good order and procedure to help make the new progressive discipline methodology work fairly and effectively for teachers, administration, and  for all our students, be they well behaved or not.


Ideally we all need access to a school computer to do these forms properly online, an expensive prospect during these tight budgetary times. Our teachers are finally starting to get more computers for our administrative use. It's harder for our old school teachers, including myself sometimes to change and adapt to the new ways, but for our younger ones who grew up with this technology it shouldn't be a hard sell. These new changes in how we report and deal with discipline problems are an incredible challenge that will take time to come to terms with, but we must do so in this increasingly complicated world. I believe the Joint TSU and TCDSB Safe Schools committee has worked together admirably in at least taking a tentative first step in better trying to deal with our common problems effectively using the latest technology available. It may not be enough to have anybody dancing in the street just yet but we are all moving together in the same direction, no small feat itself.

No comments:

Post a comment

Communist Girls ARE More Fun!

Communist Girls ARE More Fun!
See below ...

Communist Girls Are More Fun #1

Communist Girls Are More Fun #1

Communist Grrrls are More Fun #2

Communist Grrrls are More Fun #2

Communist Grrrls Are More Fun #3

Communist Grrrls Are More Fun #3

Communist Girls Are More Fun #4

Communist Girls Are More Fun #4

Art at the Paris Louvre: What does it mean?!?

Art at the Paris Louvre: What does it mean?!?
A careful analytical study!

Help! I Have No Arms!

Help! I Have No Arms!
Please scratch my back.

I can't find my underwear!.

I can't find my underwear!.
Have you seen them!

Weee! I can fly!

Weee! I can fly!
Look! I can crawl thru walls!

I have a headache!

I have a headache!
And a broken nose.

I have a square hole in my bum!

I have a square hole in my bum!

Here try this, it's very good!

Here try this, it's very good!
No. You have a bird face.

I have an ugly baby!

I have an ugly baby!
No I'm not!

Let's save all our money + buy pants!

Let's save all our money + buy pants!
OK but I need a new hand too!

Oh no! I got something in my eye!

Oh no! I got something in my eye!

You don't look well.

You don't look well.
No. My head hurts +I have a sore chest.

Would you like a bun?

Would you like a bun?

Chichen-Itza: Lost Maya City of Ruins!

Chichen-Itza: Lost Maya City of Ruins!
The Temple of Kukulkan!

Gotta love it!

Gotta love it!
Truly amazing!

Under Reconstruction!

Under Reconstruction!

Temples + Snakes!

Temples + Snakes!

The Snake!

The Snake!
It runs the length of the ball field!