Fights at Muncie Central High School prompt move to discretion-based discipline policy

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MUNCIE, Ind. (Dec. 2, 2015)-- After an increase in fights at Muncie Central High School, administrators took action and are now changing the district’s discipline policy. Now it appears zero tolerance may be a policy of the past.

Dr. Steve Baule, Superintendent of Muncie Community Schools, said sometimes arresting everyone involved in a fight may not be the best solution.

“A lot of schools have always done a zero-tolerance, everybody gets arrested. That doesn’t always make sense,” he said.

Baule said the approach to discipline now at Muncie Central High School is community-based. The recent changes were prompted this school year by a rowdy freshman class and more fights than normal.

“There has been an increase in fights, but part of that is due to a specific group of kids. Those kids were difficult as eighth graders. They’re difficult as freshmen,” he said.

Baule said students fighting on the first offense can now be sent to an alternative school, known as the Youth Opportunity Center, instead of just sitting at home.

“Students don’t view suspension as a punishment but a nice vacation,” he said.

For second and third offenses, administrators have some judgment room when deciding how much to suspend a student now. It can be anywhere from five to ten days.  Baule said school resource officers have also been told to use discretion when deciding if a student should be arrested.

Some parents of former high school students said the district should stick to a harsher policy.

“I’m for stricter punishments and getting rid of the violence right away,” said Jodi Sanders.

Other parents had supported the district’s changes.

“You can’t put all the kids in one box. Different kids go through different things. Different kids are dealing with different problems,” said Juanis Kirksey.

The superintendent said discipline policy in the district will be constantly evolving.

“The key is just to not detain people for everything they do,” he said.

Baule said Muncie Community Schools is also working with the Boys & Girls Club to get more positive role models in schools.

Some students already have criminal histories and probation officers, and now probation officers make weekly appearances to build relationships with students.

The district worked with its own school resource officers, local police, and the prosecutor on the revisions to the discipline plan.

 

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