CHICOPEE — During the School Committee meeting on April 17, the committee received a presentation from Assistant Superintendent for Student Support Services Carol Kruser about the current discipline rates in the district.

The topic was requested by School Committee member Susan Lopes who thinks the discipline behavior policy needs to be changed.

“I don’t think it is strict enough our discipline policy,” Lopes said, “We all received an email from a teacher at Chicopee High School and this is in response to that and all the other staff and families that have come to me over the years when they have been concerned about the very small percentage of our students that are causing discipline problems in our schools.”

Lopes added that teachers have reached out to her about certain students who are always late to class, constantly use vulgar language and blatantly disobey classroom rules.

Kruser’s presentation went over three different Massachusetts laws related to discipline, the discipline procedures at Chicopee Public Schools and how they are trying to help their students and staff.

The three Massachusetts laws regarding school discipline include 37H, 37H½ and 37H¾.

37H deals with the possession of drugs, weapons or assault of an education staff member on school grounds. Possible consequences include short-term or long-term suspension or expulsion. The school is still obligated to educate the student.

37H½ deals with felony, felony delinquency charges or convictions. The possible consequences are the same and the school is still obligated to educate the student.

Everything else falls under 37H¾, which includes assault and battery, harassment and violation of civil rights, theft and vandalism.

In November 2022, Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 71 added a new law for alternatives to student suspension and expulsion.

Kruser explained the new law.

She said, “Basically what they said in 2022 is that you have to try and have alternatives to suspension, and you have to try to engage the student so it’s very important that teachers, staff, administrators, principals and the district office try to find alternative remedies that fall under 37H¾.”

Alternative remedies may include medication, conflict resolution, restorative justice and collaborative problem solving.

Kruser said the Chicopee Public School Social Emotional Director Abbey Tenczar and her staff have been doing a good job compiling and making a chart for alternatives to suspension.

Chicopee schools is part of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Rethinking Discipline Department of Education initiative.

Kruser shared some findings and that Chicopee schools have been identified as suspending students at a disproportionate rate. She highlighted Dupont Middle School, Bellamy Middle School and Chicopee Academy were identified for having too many suspensions.

Kruser added, “We are directed by the state to work on ways to decrease this.”

The presentation went through different graphs for the number of referrals in the elementary, middle and high school levels.

Referrals are reports from teachers and staff regarding student behavior that they are requesting assistance to address.

The graph hits the highest peak in March in all three graphs but Kruser said the number is so high in March since that month is long due to no vacations or holidays.

The next steps for Chicopee Public Schools include working on a uniform electronic reporting system, rethinking, continue training administration on documentation, alternatives to suspension and other resources, increased de-escalation training for staff and continuing and increasing use of panorama to assess culture and climate needs.

Chicopee High School, Chicopee Comprehensive High School and some middle school and elementary schools currently have electronic reporting systems in place, but Kruser said the goal is to have them in all schools.

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