BISMARCK — One school is taking its education environment in a different direction by decreasing punishment and instead focusing on positivity.
A partnership between Simle Middle School and Sanford Health is looking to make a difference in the learning environment.
“In the past, we would punish and consequence kids but the behavior would never change. So rather than doing that, we talked about what can we do with these kids to learn from this experience,” said Russ Riehl, Principal of Simle Middle School.
With a new Multi-Tiered Systems of Support, staff focus on how to help students through positive reinforcement.
Principal Riehl said the new system is like a pyramid.
Every students starts at the base — that’s tier one.
Tier two is the students who have a few mess-ups.
The top of the pyramid is tier three — that’s for students with behavioral issues and the ones that need further emotional support.
“To me on that whole pyramid of intervention, Sanford is the chimney on that. That’s that last layer that we put on to that. To help kids that schools don’t have the appropriate intervention. They bring the expertise in with that,” said Riehl.
Tier three students have one-on-one meetings every Wednesday with a psychologist from Sanford Health.
“This is bringing mental health to the students. So we eliminate the barrier of transportation and address the barrier of parents’ work schedule. So if a parent works eight to five, I can meet their child during school hours. Not having to pull the student out of school. Or missing less class time,” said Nicole Cross Hillman, Sanford Health Psychologist.
The service also gives the school the chance to identify negative situations in their home or personal life that could be impacting their behavior.
“Kids don’t come with directions and sometimes kids become more complex, but we can learn from each other. Maybe the parents have information that they can share about what’s going on at home or comments that a child may have made that could help us do our work in terms of getting them some interventions, some supports they need to be successful,” said Riehl.
Sanford Health is also providing the program at no cost — relieving potential financial burden on families.
Ten students and their families have utilized this new program.
The school has since replaced the disciplinary form called a referral, with a student incident report — allowing children to learn from their actions, instead of punishing them.