Parents meet with Huntsville schools leaders to talk about Behavioral Learning Guide

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - A meeting Thursday at Sonnie Hereford III Elementary School was parents' chance to have their questions answered about the school system's Behavioral Learning Guides. This set of guides, one for elementary and one for secondary education, is the school system's replacement for the previous Code of Conduct.

After a public comment period, a committee of 8 administrators and 8 teachers wrote the guides outlining student discipline. They are now in effect, after a board of education vote, as the school year begins. Deputy Superintendent Dr. Barbara Cooper said the school system has received signed papers from most parents indicating they read the guide at the start of the year, but these meetings are another way to get the information out.

The Behavioral Learning Guide (BLG) is different from the embattled Code of Conduct. It was developed to be new procedures that include guidance for teachers as discipline problems occur in the classroom. The guide reads that it was meant to be just that: a guide. School leaders say it's far from zero-tolerance, and more flexible than the former rigid rules.

Parents at the meeting agreed.

"I've got nothing but positive feelings about this," commented Millie Steber, whose two children are in Huntsville City Schools. "I think it's going to be so much better for all the children of Huntsville City Schools."

Administrators say the BLG is going well so far.  The guide is all about improving school climate, and Dr. Cooper said it's already doing so.

"I believe that so far the BLG is being implemented well in the schools," said Dr. Cooper. "What we are noticing is we really aren't having as many infractions that are reaching that level of suspension and certainly expulsion. We have had a few, and we are addressing those as we should be. But we are finding that teachers really are trying to utilize those various levels [in the guide] to support students in the classroom, with the behaviors."

She said it's going well because of the teacher involvement.

"I think that having teachers and principals actually create that guide, has created more buy-in."

As mandated by the consent order over the school system, HCS is closely monitoring discipline. They're supposed to reduce not only the amount of disciplinary infractions, but the racial disparities in who is getting them.

Cooper said the BLG is not something that can't be changed, and in fact, changing it is in the plan. Schools and school system leaders will continue to welcome comments and feedback, she said, so the guide can be changed at the start of each year if necessary.