Classroom's guidelines at Norwin school prompts parent complaint

| Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Falling out of line in one elementary school classroom could mean four laps at recess for third-graders, according to a set of behavioral guidelines for a Norwin School District classroom.

District students are expected to abide by seven behavior expectations, but teachers also have the liberty to form his or her own set of rules with reward and discipline. But one Hahntown Elementary School parent takes issue with some students having to complete laps at recess, along with other disciplinary measures.

“This is not military school,” mother Deanna Betras said. “Corporal punishment went out in the 80s when kids were being paddled in school. It's not right.”

In the classroom of Betras' son, students begin the week with three fake $100 bills. If a student is cited for talking in the hall, tattling, not having pencils sharpened, being unprepared or being disrespectful, he or she will lose a bill.

At the end of the week, the remaining bills will be put in a drawing. If the student's bill is pulled, he or she will receive an ice cream treat.

If a student loses all of his or her money during the week, however, that student will face one or all of the five disciplines explained to parents. Those include writing a note home and returning it with a parent signature, sitting at a counter, moving the desk out of the group, completing four laps at recess or taking a ticket out of a monthly drawing basket.

Natalie McCracken, assistant superintendent for elementary education, described the method as a ‘token economy system.' The teacher is using $100 bills because third grade students are introduced to that denomination of money, she said. She declined to name the teacher involved in the complaint.

“There are a few teachers who use that type of system,” she said. “It works really well because one of the standards is teaching and understanding money. Ideally, kids earn money when they're behaving as they should and can lose money based on some of the negative things that were described.”

The discipline should mirror the behavior, she said.

“There are a few teachers who choose (laps at recess),” McCracken said. “But that wouldn't be an appropriate consequence if you don't have your pencil sharpened.”

Students in all Norwin schools are expected to abide by behavior expectations, including showing respect, responsibility, courage, honesty, caring, fairness and perseverance. Those expectations are part of policy passed by school directors in 2012 aimed to make citizenship and character education “a way of life” in the district.

All parents are given a handbook that goes into detail regarding expected behavior, McCracken said. The parent is expected to sign a form along with the handbook, she said.

“Everything we're doing is trying to focus on kids to be successful and make good choices and be responsible with their own behavior,” she said. “I don't think it was inherently a bad plan, but based on a parent concern, we're always willing to look at a behavior plan and try to improve it.”

Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 412-856-7400, ext. 8626.

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