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Chapter 2
Educational Service Delivery

This chapter reviews the educational service delivery system of Venus Independent School District (VISD) in the following sections:

  1. Student Performance
  2. Instructional Resources
  3. Gifted and Talented Education
  4. Compensatory Education
  5. Special Education
  6. Bilingual/English as a Second Language Education
  7. Career and Technology Education
  8. Library/Media Services
  9. Student Discipline and Alternative Education Programs
  10. Computer Technology


I. STUDENT DISCIPLINE AND ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION PROGRAMS

The U.S. Department of Education’s publication Early Warning, Timely Response, defines a properly functioning school as one that fosters “learning, safety and socially appropriate behaviors.” These schools have a strong academic focus and support students in achieving high academic standards, foster positive relationships between school staff and students and promote meaningful parental and community involvement. Most prevention programs in effective schools address multiple risk factors and recognize that safety and order are related to children’s “social, emotional and academic development.”

Texas public schools must provide standards for conduct and discipline in a student code of conduct. VISD provides an annual Student Code of Conduct to students and parents. An acknowledgement that the rules were read and understood accompanies the code.

Unless a student’s behavior violates the penal code or Code of Conduct, discipline is initially administered at the student’s home school. Principals and/or assistant principals serve as the first decision-maker on whether a student should be referred to In-School Suspension (ISS) or a Disciplinary Alternative Education Program (DAEP). Certain misbehaviors identified in

Exhibit 2-29, require removal to the DAEP. At that level of misbehavior, the principal or other appropriate administrator refers the student to a hearing. The principal or other administrator reviews the facts with parents before deciding if removal to an alternative education program is appropriate. The student can appeal a hearing ruling. There are three levels of grievance appeals. The superintendent serves as the hearing officer at the second level, the board at the third level. VISD uses the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) model for the due process on student discipline.

The district contracts for additional placement services at the Johnson County Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program (JJAEP). No VISD students are placed at JJAEP at this time.

The Alternative Behavioral Learning Environment (ABLE) Learning Center, which is the DAEP program, separates students with discretionary placements from students with mandatory placements. Discretionary placements result from actions such as disruptive behavior; violations of the student code of conduct; possession, purchase or use of tobacco products or school-related gang-related activities. Mandatory placements result from conditions such as conduct punishable as a felony; possession and use of alcohol or controlled substances; public lewdness or indecent exposure; retaliation against a school employee; or a terrorist threat or assault.

The ABLE Learning Center DAEP offers a highly structured learning environment that focuses on helping students take responsibility for their actions. Instruction must be individualized and computers are available for all students. The students use the Plato Learning System, a computer-assisted learning resource. The district pre-tests students at their time of arrival so they can be properly placed. They are also tested at the completion of their assignment to the DAEP to assess and document progress. Each student follows an individualized lesson plan. Counseling services are also available to students.

The following support services provided to VISD students: character education, conflict resolution, intervention and violence counseling, life skills program, peer mediation, student assistance program, student leadership, student leadership training, teaching tolerance and tobacco prevention. The VISD program implements the following Title IV goals: decrease substance abuse, increase community and parental involvement, raise the level of student achievement, reduce violence in school, increase student involvement in school and improve attendance.

FINDING

VISD provides district students and parents a detailed and comprehensive Student Code of Conduct. The district publishes and distributes VISD’s code to principals, teachers, students and parents at the beginning of each school year to ensure everyone is familiar with the district’s disciplinary process and the consequences for misbehavior. The code is printed in English and it includes a statement that a Spanish-speaking interpreter will be available upon request. District students and parents are responsible for reading and understanding it and providing written confirmation of their commitment to the code.

The code includes:

  • a letter to parents and students with agreement form;
  • an introduction;
  • levels of offenses;
  • definitions and terminology;
  • procedural information;
  • the student dress code; and
  • information on the discipline of a student with a disability.

COMMENDATION

VISD has a comprehensive, well-written Student Code of Conduct.

FINDING

VISD has no review process for In-School Suspension (ISS) to ensure that students receive the same consequences for the same code of conduct offenses. VISD Student Code of Conduct specifies “General misconduct identified in the list of prohibited behaviors will result in application of one or more discipline management techniques consistent with law and the Student Code of Conduct. State law requires that the violation be reported to the principal or other appropriate administrators, who will send notification to the parent or guardian within 24 hours of receiving the report.” ISS is one of the consequences listed to address student offenses. VISD does not consistently enforce ISS offenses throughout the district.

The board also has a discipline management plan that provides guidelines and appeals processes for levels of disciplinary action. The Student’s Code of Conduct addresses student removal to the DAEP: “Continued misconduct identified in the list of prohibited behaviors will result in application of one or more discipline management techniques. After reasonable techniques have been imposed and the principal and/or other appropriate administrator determines that the student’s presence in the regular classroom program or at the home campus presents a danger of physical harm to the student or to other individuals; or that the student has engaged in serious or persistent misbehavior that violates the previously communicated standards of student conduct, the administrator must remove a student to an alternative education program DAEP.”

The district has several levels of disciplinary alternatives. Students may be removed from regular classes to a disciplinary alternative learning area at their home school, which is generally referred to as ISS. Or students may be suspended and placed in a DAEP at the Learning Center, an alternative education cooperative. The shared services agreement of this cooperative includes five school districts: Godley, Grandview, Keene, Rio Vista and VISD. Keene ISD houses the Learning Center cooperative and serves as the fiscal agent of the member districts. The programs housed at the Learning Center are the ABLE, the DAEP and the Accelerated Cooperative Education (ACE). For felony offenses, a student may be expelled and placed in the Johnson County JJAEP.

VISD divides its Student Code of Conduct into two categories: behaviors and consequences. The behaviors list begins with general misconduct. Behavior that may result in suspension appears next, ending in behavior that requires expulsion. Exhibit 2-29 presents examples of behaviors and consequences as defined in the code of conduct.

Exhibit 2-29
Categories of Offenses Outlined in VISD’S Student Code of Conduct
2001-02
Behaviors Consequences
Examples of behaviors that may result in removal to the Disciplinary Alternative Education Program:
  • Criminal mischief
  • Felony conduct not on school property or school event
  • Fighting
  • Hazing
Suspension, Disciplinary Alternative Education Program
Examples of behaviors that may result in removal to the Disciplinary Alternative Education Program:
  • Repeatedly violating classroom standards of behavior
  • Stealing from students, staff or the school
  • Possessing or using fireworks of any kind
  • Possessing air guns, ammunition, mace or pepper spray
  • Discharging a fire extinguisher
Suspension, Disciplinary Alternative Education Program
Examples of behaviors that must result in removal to the Disciplinary Alternative Education Program:
  • False alarm or report (including bomb threat) or a terrorist threat involving a public school
  • Felony conduct on school property or school event
  • Assault on school property or school event
  • Indecent exposure and/or mooning
  • Sale, delivery or use of controlled substance
  • Sale, delivery or use of alcoholic beverage
  • Under the influence of inhalants
  • Using the Internet to threaten students, employees or cause disruption to the educational programs
  • Engages in expellable conduct between ages of six to nine
Disciplinary Alternative Education Program
Behavior requiring expulsion:
  • Possession of the following as outlined by the Texas Penal Code: firearm, an illegal knife, a club, a prohibited weapon such as an explosive weapon, a machine gun, etc.
  • Behavior containing elements of the following under the Texas Penal Code: aggravated assault, arson, murder or attempt to commit murder, aggravated kidnapping, indecency with a child, retaliation against a school employee or volunteer with one of the above listed offenses
Disciplinary Alternative Program, Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program
Source: VISD Student Code of Conduct, 2001-02.

Community forum and focus group comments revealed that parents and staff believe that discipline is administered through politics, not fairness. The comments reflect perceptions that teachers and administrators inconsistently enforce the code of conduct rules, based at times upon student connections. The TSPR review team requested documentation and records on in-school suspension for current and previous years by schools. During an interview with the superintendent, the review team learned that the information on in-school suspensions is not provided to central administration to ensure principals administer discipline fairly or comply with the code of conduct. Although schools report information for the “Student Disciplinary Action Detail Report” for PEIMS, no documentation was provided on in-school suspension for the current year.

Effective districts administer ISS consequences to the same offenses in a consistent matter and in accordance with the Student Code of Conduct guidelines. These districts focus on ISS goals and objectives and the qualifications of staff administering consequences. In addition, effective districts provide adequate discipline and classroom management training, encouragement to apply techniques and monitoring to ensure that Student Code of Conduct guidelines are followed.

Recommendation 13:

Develop a tracking and review process for in-school suspension to ensure that discipline is equitably applied.

IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES AND TIMELINE

1. The superintendent designates staff to develop procedures for reporting all in-school suspension on campus to central office. September 2003
2. The superintendent assigns responsibility for the review to the principal. November 2003
3. The principal reviews and reports information to the superintendent. December 2003
4. The principal monitors and makes corrections where necessary. January 2004

FISCAL IMPACT

This recommendation can be implemented with existing resources