Zero-tolerance disciplinary policy goes into effect at Brevard schools

School officials cracking down on cellphone use in classroom, student behavior

MELBOURNE, Fla. – Brevard Public Schools leaders welcomed students back from winter break as disciplinary changes began across the district.

School Board Chair Matt Susin joined interim Superintendent Dr. Robert Shiller Thursday at Sabal Elementary School.

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During the visit, Susin spoke about a zero-tolerance policy that went into effect.

“They’re policies that were on the books before,” Susin said. “What we’re doing is making sure that we enforce them to the letter that they are written for.”

Part of the changes include the enforcement of cellphone restrictions for students in the classroom.

“What we were having a problem with is the teacher would say, ‘Hey, could you put away your phone?’ and then the student would say, ‘No,’” Susin said. “Now we’ve said you can take that phone. We’ll have (school resource officers) or administrators coming in to take those phones in the event they’re trying to teach.”

Another change gives principals the authority to suspend students for up to five days for bad behavior.

The move came after the district said dozens of teachers and bus drivers quit last semester because of student behavior, which included physical attacks like scratching and headbutting.

“Across the nation right now, we’re seeing this in many different areas,” Susin said. “You’re seeing it pop up in different areas with articles saying the same thing from their school districts. It’s just that we in Brevard decided that we were going to do this, get it done, and get it done first.”

In November, Susin joined Sheriff Wayne Ivey and State Attorney Phil Archer in front of the Brevard County jail to announce plans to impose the “most prolific school discipline policy this district has ever had.”

Since then, the school board has met with unions, parents and other officials to discuss a discipline crackdown.

“We have to send a strong, stern example of what’s right and wrong,” Susin said. “But then we also need the community to come forward and work with us and tie our schools together.”

A disciplinary committee chaired by the interim superintendent is set to meet in January to discuss more policy changes.

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About the Author:

Mark Lehman became a News 6 reporter in July 2014, but he's been a Central Florida journalist and part of the News 6 team for much longer. While most people are fast asleep in their bed, Mark starts his day overnight by searching for news on the streets of Central Florida.