A Message for Our Members: We need your help to improve student behavior in JCPS

Tammy Berlin

A Message for Our Members:  We need your help to improve student behavior in JCPS 

During our October and November Rep Council meetings, we had in-depth conversations with our building reps about how student misbehavior is handled in JCPS schools.  These conversations, as well as the data from last May’s Student Discipline survey, have revealed that a significant number of JCTA members either a) have been directed by their administrators to write fewer or less severely worded student behavior referrals, or b) are under the impression that their administrators have been directed by their superiors to use whatever means necessary at their building level to reduce and eliminate the number of discipline referrals and subsequent suspensions.  This is a serious problem that destroys building climate, employee and student morale, and public trust in our District. JCTA needs your help to solve it.  

Know Your Rights

Article 7 of our contract talks about the responsibilities of employees and the District regarding student discipline.  Section A says that the employees and the District agree to “effectively carry out” the Student Support and Behavior Intervention Handbook (SSBIH) and the Student Bill of Rights as adopted by the District.  That means that you as a teacher have the responsibility of using adequate and appropriate classroom management techniques to maintain an environment conducive to learning.  In return, you have the right to expect that your building administrator will adhere to the administrator responsibilities in the SSBIH, including supporting you in implementing behavior interventions, accurately recording inappropriate student behavior and disciplinary responses following the protocols established in the SSBIH, and following procedures for student removals from the learning environment.  Furthermore, Article 7 states that the District “shall strive to provide a learning environment that is safe and free from interruptions by disruptive students”, and it specifically guarantees you the right to temporarily remove a disruptive student from the classroom. If your administrator is not following the provisions outlined in the SSBIH and the Student Bill of Rights you have the right to grieve. This right is guaranteed you in Section C of Article 7 of our contract.  

What to Do When a Directive Conflicts with Your Rights

Simply put, call your UniServ Director at the JCTA office at (502) 454-3400.

JCTA is your best source for resolving problems with the District and with your administrators. Although there are occasionally situations where a dispute with the District is a perpetual struggle, in most cases we can enforce the provisions of our contract, but only if you tell us when your rights are being violated and by whom.  If you’ve been directed to refrain from writing referrals or calling your school’s Student Response Team, if you’ve been directed to use less-severe language than indicated as appropriate by the SSBIH, if your administrator has not supported you in implementing behavior interventions, if they have not followed procedures for student removals from the learning environment, or if they are in general not supporting your efforts to maintain a classroom environment conducive to learning, you need to communicate that to your UniServ Director.  

Often your UniServ Director can solve the issue through normal communication channels, but occasionally it may be necessary to use the grievance process in the contract to resolve a dispute.  A grievance is a normal and necessary process through which the Association files a formal written complaint against the employer outlining specific ways in which the employer has failed to uphold their end of the contract.  It is a right afforded to you in our contract to ensure that your employer treats you fairly and follows the rules. Don’t be afraid to use this procedure when you need to in order to protect your rights.  

Can You Get in Trouble if You Ask JCTA to Help?

The short answer is NO.  In many cases, the Association can talk to the district about your school’s issues without using your name.  Your communications with JCTA are confidential and the Association will never use your name without your permission. 

If it is necessary to use your name, JCTA will only do so with your permission and our contract protects you from retaliation if you work through JCTA to resolve your problems.  Article 5 of our contract says, “Employees and administrators shall be treated in a professional manner at all times.” Article 9, which talks about disciplinary action against employees, protects you against being disciplined by your administrator unless there is just cause.  Just cause means that the District has to follow proper procedures in investigating whether or not you willingly violated a rule or regulation that you should have reasonably been expected to be aware of, and that employee discipline can only occur if there is substantial proof that you are guilty.  Just cause protections apply to every member who is tenured. 

For those who aren’t tenured yet, JCTA can often engage without using your name and any identifying information in discussions with the District.  When that is not possible, your UniServ Director can help you explore the options available to you and can often help find other ways to solve your problem.  For example, there may be tenured teachers with the same issue who are willing to take the lead on the issue. 

Because our contract assures you the right to expect that your administrator will fulfill their obligations to support you in maintaining a classroom environment that is safe and conducive to learning, and because the grievance procedure is the mechanism through which JCTA holds administrators accountable for following the rules, your administrator cannot discipline you or otherwise retaliate against you for exercising your contractual rights to seek help from the Association.  Most principals are responsive when UniServ Directors work through their channels at the District to solve problems like these, but in the few cases where they have not been, we have seen administrators reprimanded, reassigned, removed, and even retired for not upholding their end of the contract.  

Let’s Work Together to Improve Student Behavior

If teachers in your building are finding that administration is not supporting their efforts to manage student behavior as outlined in the SSBIH, call the JCTA office and explain the situation to your UniServ Director right away.  Your UniServ Director will guide you in the best way to protect your rights and hold your administrators accountable.  

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