Kids leaving school (copy) (copy)

MMSD school kids are seen leaving school in this file photo. District staff and parents will discuss the  Behavior Education Plan Tuesday for an event at the Goodman South Public Library.

Those with questions about the Madison Metropolitan School District’s Behavior Education Plan have a chance to get them answered Tuesday.

District staff will hold a session from 6-7:30 p.m. to discuss, “What is the BEP? How does it work? What should I know?” at the Goodman South Public Library, 2222 S. Park St.

Speakers at the event are MMSD coordinator of progressive discipline Bryn Martyna and parent and Padres e Hijos en Acción director Hector Portillo.

The BEP has been controversial in recent years, with an updated version in 2019 after being initially approved in 2014 under then-superintendent Jennifer Cheatham. The plan replaced the student code of conduct with a goal to cut the number of suspensions and reduce the disparities in suspensions by race.

The plan focuses on restorative practices and teaching good behaviors rather than punishing bad ones. It also outlines penalties for specific behaviors and has a version for each of the elementary, middle and high school levels.

[Madison School District suspensions still disproportionately given to black students, those with disabilities]

“The Behavior Education Plan is driven by the word ‘education,’ and at its core is a teaching and learning plan designed to support every student in their social, emotional, and academic development,” the plan’s overview states. “We know behavior education is complex work that happens in classrooms and cafeterias, on buses and playgrounds, and even offices and auditoriums. Whether you are a student, family member, community member, or staff member, we all have a responsibility to embody our beliefs, our expectations, and our commitments.”

It quickly came under fire in the 2014-15 school year, with Madison Teachers Inc. members testifying just weeks into the school year that behavior concerns had increased under the new plan. Some have continued to blame the plan for what they say is an increasingly chaotic school environment. Specifically, they've questioned its implementation and been critical of the the lack of training teachers received on some of its practices.

In February, data from the first semester of 2019-20 showed that out-of-school suspensions have increased in each of the last five first semesters, and black students and students with disabilities are still more likely than their peers to be the ones suspended.

“Our data shows painfully slow progress in the right direction, but it will take us years at this rate to close that gap,” Jay Affeldt, director of student and staff support, said at the February School Board Instruction Work Group meeting.

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