PASCO COUNTY, Fla. - The Deer Park Elementary School principal met with parents tonight about a new behavior system some called inappropriate.
Parents were upset and worried their children would be labeled anarchists or bullies for misbehaving, but the principal held Tuesday night's meeting to clear up some misconceptions.
Principal Margie Polen explained to parents the disciplinary issues at Deer Park Elementary School are a huge problem. She said they have risen through the years.
“We really need them to be learning and we need there not to be classroom disruptions," Principal Polen said.
She said last school year they had 433 incidents.
“It’s better that they’re looking and trying to be proactive and fix it before it gets worse because obviously what we’re doing isn’t fixing it," Lisa Hanna, a parent, said.
To try to minimize disciplinary issues, the principal introduced the Raise Responsibility System this school year. It is supposed to empower kids to resist inappropriate behavior by teaching them anarchy and bullying are unacceptable.
“Because they’re going to incorporate it with the one last year, I think it is going to help and it’s the improvement that we need definitely and it’s going to make the change in the right direction. Some of the word choices may not have been exactly spot on, but kids are different today so it's time that we change -as well as parents," Christy rouleau, a parent, said.
Regina Norton was concerned about the new program before Tuesday night's meeting, but after it was explained and seeing the changes, she said she is on board with it.
"I like the emoji concept because the children are really into the emoji’s and they really connect to them, but the words aren’t really as meaningful to them as it is the message that’s being delivered. So anarchy to my daughter just means I'm not behaving, but anarchy -once we add all those other layers to that word- we make it something that maybe it’s not what’s being portrayed in the school," Regina Norton said.
Many parents felt better after listening to teachers, who have used the program, and the man who wrote the program. The district told ABC Action News previously students were not going to be labeled.
"It has a different meaning to adults because we watch the news and terrible things and kids …it was explained to them at a level they could understand so then it doesn’t really concern me at all anymore," Hanna said.
There were still some concerns by parents the author of the program didn't have any data proving the success of the program.
"How could you have a system in place for (that) long and not have any data to support," Charity Hendry, a parent, said.
Tuesday night, the principal announced some changes to the program. It included eliminating the word anarchy as well as some other minor changes. She asked for input from parents, about changing level A to another word.
“I’m hoping this is one step in the right direction," Hendry said.
Even with the changes, it is still unclear whether they will keep the program at Deer Park Elementary School.
“I think over time it’ll become more apparent that this is a successful program. If we’re able to continue with it, I think parents will begin to see the change," Principal Polen said.