PINELLAS COUNTY — Dozens of angry parents, grandparents and community members attended Tuesday’s Pinellas County School Board meeting to voice their concerns and frustrations over student safety and discipline practices.
“My big concern is that kids don’t feel safe in the classrooms. I’m the parent of a child in the Pinellas County School System and there’s still bullying and disciplinary problems and teachers just aren’t able to teach in the classroom and that’s not ok,” said parent Leslie Walbolt.
Parents want the school board to focus on restorative practices.
“My message to the school board is this: we need to have a proper implementation of restorative practices in the schools that will kind of clear up these issues of disciplinary problems,” said Walbolt.
Restorative practices are alternative discipline techniques that involve not immediately suspending students for bad behavior. Instead, it shows teachers how to have face-to-face meetings and group talks with the classroom to tackle issues.
“Kids will be held accountable for their actions but they’ll also be made to be a part of the school community and will feel free to talk to teachers and students when they are having issues in school,” said Walbolt.
The district has started implementing the program but some parents say it hasn’t done enough.
Chris Harris has three boys in the school system and says her oldest son is in high school and has seen great improvements with restorative practices.
Harris claimed her younger son’s school isn’t using those techniques and it shows.
“He’s been suspended so many times. Out of school suspensions in school suspensions. When I go to the school and ask what can I do, we do as a parent and a team, at the school to make things better we don’t come up with any type of solution,” said Harris.
The school district sent ABC Action News a statement saying the implementation is going well and that the school district is recognized as a leader in restorative practices. The district said it has already committed to implementing this program and 5,600 staff members have been trained.
Around 19 people spoke up during Tuesday's meeting.
“It’s escalating and it will continue to escalate and I just don’t see an end to it. Something has got to be done,” said Harris.