Education / Schools

San Benito High School sees spike in disciplinary issues

Principal Adrian Ramirez addresses support and interventions students receive.

At the San Benito High School District Board meeting on Dec. 14, SBHS Principal Adrian Ramirez told the Board of Trustees what the school administration has been doing to handle an increase in disciplinary issues among students. He gave an overview of the interventions and support that have been implemented for the 2021-22 school year.

“I don’t think that I need to announce to the board that we’ve had a spike in terms of concerning behavior,” Ramirez said. “Having come back into full in-person learning, there are a list of things that we had to address, and we had to really get back to the basics in terms of intervening and clarifying expectations with students.” 

Ramirez said at the schoolwide level, administrators have been encountering increased physical altercations and problems involving social media, vandalism, decorum and dress code. 

“We continue to approach everything through this Multi-Tiered System of Support,” he said, “whether it’s an academic issue or task, social and emotional wellness, services for our students, or the way we respond to behavior on campus that may result in some sort of discipline.”

Ramirez explained that Tier 1 is about providing school-wide support for students, “whether it’s our school-wide lessons or the types of interventions and responses that our teachers have in the classrooms.” 

He said Tier 2 support comes when behavioral issues need to be handled outside the classroom, while Tier 3 is “still a very systematic approach with how we combat those [behavioral] pieces.”

Ramirez said the school “couldn’t be more fortunate” to have upgraded counseling and wellness services to provide for its students. While the addition of its Wellness Center has made a positive impact on the school, Ramirez also praised the resources the counseling office is now providing.

“With the addition of a school social worker, the opportunity to intervene and to attempt to intervene with students with some more in-depth services has been invaluable to us,” he said. “As you know, all students have really struggled one way or another with adjusting back to full in-person learning.”  

BenitoLink asked the district how many students have been suspended or expelled from school. Public Information Officer Adam Breen said because the school is on its winter break it will take until the first week of January for the district to respond.

According to the last data available by the California Department of Education, between the 2011-12 school year and 2019-20, San Benito High School has averaged 197 suspensions per school year. The highest number of students suspended were in the 2012-13 school year with 249 while the least occurred during the 2018-19 school year with 155. There are over 3,000 enrolled students at the high school.

SBHS parent Christi Enfantino said her step-daughter has struggled since going back to in-person learning this year. She believes the school’s approach to remote learning, along with being “understaffed” and not properly trained to deal with increased behavioral problems are among the reasons for her step-daughter’s issues. 

With the pass/fail grading system that was put in place during remote learning, Enfantino said her step-daughter would cover her computer camera with tape during classes and just played video games for a year and half. 

“She didn’t get an education,” Enfantino said, adding that she still passed all her classes. 

When in-person learning resumed in August, Enfantino said her step-daughter “literally just roamed around campus for the first half of this year” after she would drop her off. Campus supervisors would try their best to get her to go to classes, but the staff would later “walk right by her when they’d see her. Or if they’d try, she would just cuss them out.”

Her step-daughter is now receiving support in the school’s Special Education program. She already had an Individualized Educational Program (IEP), a plan to provide additional resources for students with special needs, and now has a four-hour long school day. When Enfantino drives her to school, she parks and texts her teacher, who is also her IEP case worker, who then takes her to class.

“She can’t be trusted to go to the classroom or not cuss somebody out or get into a fight,” Enfantino said. “The idea is that as she improves, she’ll get these things back. I’m happy with the change—now she’s in a classroom all day. But I can’t imagine that they can do this for every single student with behavioral issues.” 

While “traditional” consequences such as suspensions are still in place, Ramirez said SBHS has used the restorative approach in dealing with less aggressive behaviors by teaching students the appropriate behavioral responses to issues that may trigger them. This approach is used for suspended students, as well. 

“As much as we know that [suspension] may not be the most productive way to address behavior, there are times where there are safety concerns and we have to send students home,” he said. “But we still have to follow up with accountability, and the teaching and learning of appropriate behaviors. That’s really where the restorative piece comes in. Whether it’s students spending time with us on campus or at home, regardless, we still want to follow up with the teaching and learning of appropriate behavior with whatever that issue may have been.” 

Ramirez said the school also revisited its school-wide expectations the week after returning from Thanksgiving break. Everything from the dress code to consequences and interventions for certain incidents was addressed.

“We thought it was very important, especially with how the year was going for us, that we revisited that, because we didn’t want to wait until the beginning of the second semester,” Ramirez said. 

Students will revisit the school-wide expectations again at the start of the second semester, “to make sure there is clarity for our students and our staff,” he said.  

“Just the reopening of in-person learning and all the services that our students are able to receive and have access to in person, we couldn’t be happier than that.”

 

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Jenny Mendolla Arbizu

Jenny is a Hollister native who resides in her hometown with her husband and son. She is a San Benito High School graduate, and received her BA in Literature from UC Santa Cruz and her MA in Education from San Jose State University. Jenny has written for the Hollister Freelance, San Benito and South Valley magazines. She enjoys meeting new people in San Benito County, sharing breaking news with the community, and spotlighting the county’s events and businesses. When not writing, Jenny can be found performing with SBSC, singing with the Hollister VFW, or working out at Cold Storage CrossFit.