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Mt. Pleasant Area catches students at their best

| Monday, Dec. 21, 2009

The Mt. Pleasant Area School District has taken a preventive approach to disciplinary problems.

The disciplinary guidelines, referred to as the Viking Code, have taken the noisy hallways and cafeterias of the schools, especially at the elementary levels, to a new height of organization and control.

Having students walk in an orderly fashion on one side of the hallway and practicing a three-minute cool down silent period at the end of lunch has brought a new approach to teaching students that a less chaotic approach to everyday rituals can be beneficial.

"The whole point of doing this with the students is to teach them positive reinforcement," said Lance Bentler, principal at Ramsay and Rumbaugh elementary schools. "We focus on all the good that the students are doing, and the students now might think more before they react."

A Be Caught Being Good program was started in all the elementary schools. It rewards students who display positive acts.

A student can be nominated by anyone within the school.

"Students can be nominated by teachers, office workers, cafeteria workers, custodians and even bus drivers," said Scott Bryer, principal at Donegal and Norvelt elementary schools. "They give us the name of students that they see being responsible, respectful or doing something safely."

Students who are recognized have their names or photos posted within the schools. They will remain posted for the entire year.

Some of the schools also hold drawings, awarding them small school-related items.

"We went to a conference that dealt with districts who already had behavioral plans in place," Bryer said. "We wanted to gather information and see what ideas worked in other districts."

Each school building within the district now has a team of faculty members who meet on a regular basis to discuss the program and its feedback.

Another method being instituted in the schools is having a teacher or faculty member raise a hand, signaling it is time for students to quiet.

"Instead of yelling, a teacher raises their hand," Bentler said. "It usually takes three or four seconds for them to quiet down."

Bentler feels that the proactive approaches have already created a more positive and respectful attitude among district students.

"We've also made it a point to always greet the students with a good morning or a hello," Bentler said. "I think that it definitely has had a positive effect. Kids now will call out our names and say hello and just generally be more respectful to us."

The program has reduced the number of students who report to the principals' offices.

"There has been a decline in disciplinary issues," Bentler said. "That is because everyone is working together. This is succeeding because the entire staff is working with this to make it work."

Working within the hallways and cafeterias was the goal of this year. Next year the district hopes to expand programs that will include behavior in the rest-rooms and on the buses.

"We want good, well-rounded students within our district and this is a definite step in the right direction," Bryer said. "We want our students to be respectful, be safe and be responsible and that is what we are now seeing."

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