By: John McCarthy
Brevard Public Schools will convene a panel of educators, parents, students and others early next year to discuss changes to the district’s discipline policies, said School Board chair Matt Susin.
In the meantime, students can expect school administrators to be stricter in enforcing existing rules, especially those covering cell phone use in school and violence against school personnel.
Susin discussed the changes in a hastily convened press conference outside BPS headquarters moments after the board unanimously approved the contract for Robert Schiller to act as interim school superintendent. Mark Mullins, the previous superintendent, agreed to step down in November when it became clear that he didn’t have the support of Susin or two newly elected board members, Gene Trent and Megan Wright.
At a school board meeting earlier this month, Brevard Federation of Teachers President Anthony Colucci described a list of behavior reports from BPS teachers, which included incidents of students striking, biting and attacking teachers, walking out of class and, in one case, performing a sexual act in a classroom that Colucci said was filmed by another student.
“These are the experiences of our teachers and our students in the classroom,” Colucci said. “We need to work together to make sure this changes.”
Statistics from the Florida Department of Education show there were 1,470 criminal, violent or disruptive incidents reported at Brevard County schools for the 2020-2021 school year, the most recent year for which data is available. For previous years, the number of incidents was 1,603 in 2019-2020; 2,274 for 2018-19; and 1,373 in 2017-18, according to the DOE. Brevard County currently has commensurate suspension rates compared to other counties of similar sizes, according to the most recent DOE numbers.
Earlier this month, Sheriff Wayne Ivey gathered with Susin in front of the county jail for a live video, decrying that it would be “a new day” in Brevard schools when it came to discipline. The video, in which Ivey called students who acted out “clowns” and “snots,” made national news. The sheriff clarified that his agency was “not in the discipline business,” but urged a greater role for law enforcement.
At Tuesday’s press conference, Colucci said he was looking forward to working with others to deal with the discipline problems. “This is all about is keeping our students, our teachers and staff safe. And when we know those things are in place, we know that our students will do better. We will have better outcomes in our community, in our country, when we have good working conditions and learning conditions for our students.”
Schiller — who has served as a superintendent at districts in New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and California, has also held jobs such as state superintendent of all schools in Illinois, Michigan and Delaware — said he had a long history of helping to developing discipline procedures.