Inner-school violence in the Provo City School District has significantly declined in the last 12 years, and it may be because of a change in disciplinary policy.
“In just the last seven years, we’ve seen school safety violations drop by 38 percent,” said Associate Superintendent Greg Hudnall. “In the last 12 years we could have expelled 30 students. We’ve only expelled one.”
Hudnall explained that rather than expelling students, as was done in the former disciplinary model, he and his colleagues do everything they can to go after the heart of the problems in the lives of the students who act out.
[easyembed field=”Photogallery”]They do this, Hudnall said, by involving mental health workers, social workers and psychologists in evaluating each situation. This evaluation includes a look at the home environment of the students.
“The focus is the family,” Hudnall said.
Some of the issues he said they face are fights — the most recent including brass knuckles — and possession and dealership of drugs, though he reassured that the prevalence of drugs and alcohol, while there, is “not as high as people think.”
The process, Hudnall said, involves a weekly council of 14 people ranging from police officers to psychologists who sit down with the offending student and his or her parent. The parent and student are each given the opportunity to offer any input. Afterward, the student and parent step out of the room while the council evaluates the situation and comes up with a decision on how to proceed.
“There is always a consequence for the students’ actions,” Hudnall said. “We have a very good relationship with juvenile court.”
Expulsion is rarely seen as a productive response by educators.
“It just moves the problem to the street,” Hudnall said.
Lani Quisenberry is an assistant principal at Provo High School where, she said, administration is constantly preparing and practicing emergency responses to threats coming from the outside as well as the inside of the district’s schools.
Quisenberry said the most probable threat they face comes from suspicious people and vehicles in the area.
The most recent alert, she said, focused around a driver inviting students to enter his car.
Sgt. Mathew Siufanua of the Provo Police Department said overall, Provo rates extremely high nationally as one of the safest cities in the nation and tends to be safer than cities nearer to Salt Lake.