Parents express concern about discipline in Aiken County schools

Aiken County Schools superintendent Sean Alford has been hosting town halls to talk about population trends and school hours, but many parents and teachers say disciplinary policy is at the forefront of their minds.
Aiken County Schools superintendent Sean Alford has been hosting town halls to talk about population trends and school hours, but many parents and teachers say disciplinary policy is at the forefront of their minds.

BATESBURG-LEESVILLE, S.C. (WJBF)- Aiken County Schools superintendent Sean Alford has been hosting townhalls to talk about population trends and school hours, but many parents and teachers say they have disciplinary policy at the forefront of their minds. The fourth of five public townhalls was held Tuesday night at a church in Batesburg-Leesville, S.C.

“I mean that’s something that needs to be addressed,” said Aiken County parent Willie Chandler.

NewsChannel 6 spoke with a teacher who says policy is part of the problem. She says teachers are not allowed to send disruptive students from the classroom.

“It’s become an issue…has become so great with multiple students acting out in class,” said Ashley Nembhard, who teaches fifth grade at Busbee Corbett Elementary Middle School.

However, teachers do have a ‘panic button’ in their classrooms they use can use in extreme situations, such as those involving violence. Nembhard says repeatedly dealing with the more routine disruptions cuts into her teaching time significantly and undermines her authority.

The meeting addressed the importance of making sure each child receives the same amount of time in the classroom but only in regard to discrepancies in the length of the school day throughout the district.

“I know many teachers would die just for about 10 extra minutes a day…15 extra minutes a day. Ten extra minutes for that child that’s on the brink of getting it,” said Shawn Foster, the chief operations officer for Aiken County Public Schools.

Nehmhard says she spends 15 to 25 percent of her day dealing with disruptive students.

“The students that really want to learn, they’re being distracted by those disciplinary problems and we really haven’t found an outlet as of yet to make sure all the students are learning regardless of the disciplinary problems,”

Those concerns boiled over in the townhall.

“Our teachers are figthing a losing battle,” said Aiken Parent Rhonda Poole. “They cannot administer the kinds of education that all of children deserve because they’re
having to focus on disruptions and disrespect.”

The superintendent responded, saying the days of telling a student after one warning to leave the classroom are no more.

“This is where as a school district,” said Aiken County Schools Superintendent Sean Alford. “We just have to shoulder the burden because not only do our teachers have to
deal with that every day, but that’s life.”

The final town hall meeting will be Thursday at 6:30 at Silver Bluff High School.

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