Discipline in schools

At a meeting last week, school board members heard from a panel of district employees about what they’re trying to do to improve school climate and discipline.

Jan Martin, the district’s chief school psychologist, said one of the issues she deals with the most is students who come in at a young age with no concept of how to follow rules or listen to teachers.

Many children are coming from chaotic home lives, where families are getting evicted or their families are homeless, she said.

“If you speak to the principals and teachers, you will find that an incredible amount of time and emotional energy is spent on discipline and behavior,” she said. “It detracts from learning just immeasurably.”

Many students are looking for a sense of connectedness, which is when they fall prey to gang activity, she said.

Other district staff talked about programs they use to try to help students feel comfortable in schools.

Linda Ryan, a teacher at Pennichuck Middle School, said the advisory program helps give each student an adult they feel they can talk to. Each day starts with students in their advisories, she said.

Ryan said they talk about issues such as what to do to stay out of trouble and how to speak with their parents, among other things.

“Advisory is a safe place,” she said. “It’s a place to talk.”

Andrew Hagan, a school resource officer who works in the elementary and middle schools, said he tries to give students an opportunity to meet a police officer in a positive setting. Hagan said he does programs with students such as gang resistance and how to deal with peer pressure of alcohol and drug use.