Orange County teachers union meets to discuss concerns about student discipline

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Orange County school leaders are shining a light on the problem of students behaving poorly throughout the district.


The Orange County Classroom Teachers Association held a roundtable discussion Wednesday to hear from the educators themselves about what they’re seeing.

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OCCTA President Clinton McCracken says there’s been a recent increase in negative student behaviors in Orange County schools including violent behavior towards each other and even instances where teachers have been injured.

Wednesday’s meeting was a precursor to what the school district is planning to do to curb bad behavior.

“The board is forming a district task force to address some of these, so we wanted to hear from teachers first,” McCracken explained.

McCracken says most of the feedback he heard was about the need to eliminate the “levels of approval” for issuing consequences for negative behavior. In other words, many of the teachers feel like the punishment doesn’t fit the behavior.

Gretchen Robinson is one of the teachers who took part in the discussion Wednesday. She also says the lack of consequences for smaller offenses can lead to bigger problems.

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“It starts with simple things like no consequences for tardies, or skipping classes, or taking their phones out,” Robinson said. “And that builds up to no consequences for the bigger things.”

Robinson teaches math in the district and provided examples of students hitting each other and at times assaulting teachers.

“I remember hearing students say ‘fine, send me to student services; they’re not going to do anything,’” Robinson said. “And they were right.”

Orange County is not the only Central Florida school district that’s going to the drawing board to address student discipline concerns. The Brevard County School District has been discussing the matter for weeks.

The president of the teachers union there- the Brevard Federation of Teachers- says their students are also not being held accountable for their poor behavior, and teachers say they don’t feel safe in the classrooms.

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Brevard Public Schools is now working on an internal audit of the district’s current discipline policies and procedures in order to figure out a path forward. BPS will hold its first Discipline Committee meeting Friday.

A first meeting of Orange County’s student discipline task force isn’t on the books yet, but they say they’re going to take the feedback from Wednesday’s meeting and start putting it together so they’ll be ready to offer suggestions when the meetings start.

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