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4J School Board Discusses Next Steps for Modifying Student Safety Plan

Elizabeth Gabriel


On June 24, the board approved a resolution to modify the district’s student safety model, with the goal of “correcting practices and policies that perpetuate opportunity and achievement gaps and institutional racism.”

Now the district is working to figure out the next steps. 


This comes after the district agreed on June 17 to remove school resource officers by December 31. But the 4J will not fully implement a new safety plan until Fall 2021. 


Modifying the student safety plan will include reviewing the following information: 


• Review of relevant board policies

• Student discipline system

• Student behavior expectations and supports

• Available counseling and mental health supports

• Role of the public safety director, campus monitors, school resource officers, and others

• Data on school climate, student discipline, and student arrests

• Key research on school discipline and safety models

• Information on alternate safety models and alternatives to exclusionary discipline, and to arrest and adjudication for conduct that could have criminal consequences


During the 4J school board work session Wednesday night, the board outlined their road map for restructuring their safety model and addressing these issues. This included discussing what they do and don't want the plan to include, as well as suggestions for receiving community input. But the board did not specifically discuss what a modified safety plan will look like or even what they will focus on first. 


When discussing how to work on this plan, school board member Alicia Hays said she doesn't want people choosing sides on the matter of safety and police reform. She said they should be focusing on what will make everyone feel the most safe. 


“I think where we will lose is if we get into a ‘police are good, police are bad’ kind of conversation,” said Hays. “We want to talk about safety in this broad sense. And what makes people feel safe is very different. And what makes me feel safe may make you feel unsafe. So I think it’s an opportunity for us as a community to have the conversation. But to not rehash that piece of it.”


As part of this planning process, the group will receive community input. According to board documents, this could include listening sessions held as public forums, small group dialogue with feedback shared to the board, and potentially guided community conversations held jointly with other local organizations.


But in order to have a more effective community voice, school board member Martina Shabram suggested having a work group in addition to listening sessions. She said her ideal group would include representatives of students, staff, and community members that are able to engage in dialogue and problem solving. 


“As convenient--and I don’t mean [convenient] in a good way-- as it is to say we’re gonna set up an event and people can speak and we will listen--that is a convenient model,” said Shabram. “I also don’t think that it really always makes people feel heard. And it doesn’t make people feel like they’re really participating. It means that often they feel like they’re just speaking out into nothingness, and not really seeing the way that they are agents in that.”


The board hopes to work with the 4J Equity Committee to identify at least one goal they can accomplish this year. According to the revised timeline, the board is working to review their policies and would like to hear from the community by the end of winter.


Approximate Timeline (specific dates to be scheduled):


• Systems review and Community voice


Board direction:

• Identify guiding values and areas to address

• Direct superintendent to develop safety plan framework 


• Superintendent develops action plan framework


• Board discussion and community feedback

Spring 2021

• Superintendent develops and presentes a final action plan to school board members. 

Fall 2021

• Implementation and ongoing evaluation. 

Elizabeth Gabriel is a former KLCC Public Radio Foundation Journalism Fellow. She is an education reporter at WFYI in Indianapolis.
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