Students at several schools within the Tehachapi Unified School District may soon be placed into a new program if they are disruptive or show negative behavior in the classroom. It's part of the district’s approach to help students recognize bad behavior, make amends and reduce overall suspension and expulsion rates.

The Alternative to Suspension program will be provided by Blue Water Educational Consulting.

The program has a three-tier system that helps students and teachers analyze behavior patterns, identify underlying reasons for bad behavior and return students to the classroom from which they were taken after making amends with those they harmed, Barry Tyler, co-owner of Blue Water Educational Consulting, said at the Aug. 14 regular school board meeting.

“The process from moving from punishment and consequence to accountability, support and intervention is a timely process, but the results are very well for all the districts we work with,” Tyler said.

Students in the program will be in a separate classroom with a teacher for up to 30 days. A series of steps to help students improve their behavior may include student surveys, apology letters, commitment cards and other ways to "own" their previous unacceptable behaviors. This includes a plan for the student after they leave the program,  Tyler added.

The program will be implemented at Jacobsen Middle School, Tehachapi High School and Monroe High School. It is also the first program with training and curriculum that will be used to help students with discipline issues. Staff will also receive training on the program, said TUSD interim superintendent Paul Kaminski.

“For every student who comes into the alternative to suspension, they're going to have an exit plan, goals in order for them to increase their success academically, socially, emotionally and behaviorally,” Tyler said.

He added, “Students are going to have actions that we wish to be less seen in the campus environment and we are going to provide them with the support to move away from what those actions are.”

Alternatives to suspending or expelling students don't come from the district alone; it's part of state law that prevents administrators from suspending students for certain infractions without first providing some sort of positive behavior support. This means conferences between parents and staff, participation in anger management or after-school programs, according to leginfo.legislature.ca.gov, in regard to Assembly Bill 1729.

The program doesn’t come without a price. The training for students and staff with monthly meetings from the company costs $31,000 for one year, according to the approved 2018 contract agreement.

Board members had questions on how the program would help students once they graduated and were out of the school system.

Board member Joe Wallek said, “How does this equate to the real world? When kids get out into the real world and they are dealing with the military, or the criminal justice system, or working for somebody and since there are no consequences for behavior in school, what are we teaching kids when they get out?”

There is a built-in component in the program to address those who have been harmed by the negative behavior. If after going through the program the students are still acting in the same manner, there are other alternatives such as home schooling and the program would hold students accountable without shaming or demeaning them, said Tyler.

Statistics were not shown regarding how the program has helped other school districts or what percentage of student behavior improved.

For more information, go to bluewatereducationalconsulting.com.