School Board Meeting Wrap-Up

The following is from the Feb.8 meeting of the Laguna Beach Unified School District Board of Education.


Programs target bullying on campuses

Supt. Sherine Smith presented a brief history of the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports Program, adopted by the district several years ago to incorporate positive reinforcement for behavioral choices in efforts to strengthen students' connections to their schools, community and the world around them by engaging in activities that build proper social skills and instill a sense of responsibility. Smith introduced the principals of each of Laguna's schools, who then brought the school board up-to-date on what their students have been doing in accordance with the program.

El Morro Elementary Principal Chris Duddy said his students have been learning how to demonstrate respect and kindness. Last month, the school added Social Responsibility and Bully Prevention to the program, in which students of all grade levels learn to differentiate between normal conflicts and actual bullying, how to use words in either situation, and when to seek help from an adult. He shared an entertaining video put together by staff members that highlights typical "conflict" situations and how to behave the "wrong way" and the "right way" in each situation. From the film, students learned about the "Stop, Walk and Talk" strategy, which advises them to stop, walk away from a conflict and introduce an adult to help talk them through tough social scenarios.

Top of the World Elementary recently incorporated the Rachel's Challenge initiative, Principal Ron LaMotte announced. Inspired by the journal entries and life of Rachel Scott, the first victim in the Columbine High School shooting, the challenge encourages students to demonstrate kindness and help one another.

TOW's Kindness and Compassion Club, which allows students the opportunity to show kindness toward their classmates and in the community, has been embraced and shown positive results that are evident throughout the school, said teacher and club advisor Azadeh Baghai. The club recently took a field trip downtown where students greeted people and picked up trash along the way. Another way students displayed kindness in the community recently was by writing letters of appreciation to city police officers and firefighters.

Successful social development at Thurston Middle continues to be an important focus for both students and staff, said Principal Joanne Culverhouse. Part of its program, SMART (Solve problems, Make good decisions, Achieve, Respect, There and ready), a positive perspective, evidence-based approach that works to increase instructional time by decreasing discipline issues, accentuates proactive strategies for defining, teaching and supporting proper student behavior in a positive learning environment. Posters around campus serve as a reminder to students to demonstrate social conduct. Incentives like the SMART cards, she said, reward students for exemplary behavior day-to-day at the school.

Laguna Beach High School Principal Don Austin, along with LBHS counselor and Peer Assistance and Leadership Advisor Tristen Gire, discussed the Peer Assistance and Leadership program, which provides valuable "how to respond" training to students and which they said has had a favorable impact on connections between peers around campus.

—Ashley Breeding

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