top of page

Burlington, IA: "Apparent upswing in student misbehavior"; educators don't know why

May 18, 2019, Burlington (IA) Hawk Eye: Burlington schools grapple with student discipline Superintendent Pat Coen is considering expanding an existing program for students who require additional behavioral attention. Ongoing student behavioral problems in Burlington schools have the school board, district officials and teachers considering a new approach to discipline. The district is looking to roll out an expansion of the existing James Madison Education Center (JMEC) program next year. The program now is for high school students with chronic behavioral issues, but the expansion would allow for younger students to also take advantage. JMEC focuses more on intensive behavioral, social and emotional training than do traditional school settings. Superintendent Pat Coen said through the expansion of the program, which still is pending, students presenting “a substantial disruption to the educational process” and displaying consistent misbehavior would move from their regular classrooms and school building and instead attend JMEC, involving a curriculum that is equal parts academia and behavioral focus. “It would be more scaling back on academics and scaling up on behavioral modifications,” Coen said…. Student discipline came to the forefront of conversation Tuesday during the Burlington School Board meeting, beginning with public comments made by Patty Trine, who taught for 25 years in the Burlington School District before retiring. She has worked as a substitute teacher for three years. This year, Trine has been substitute teaching in her former sixth grade math classroom at Aldo Leopold Middle School. She was excited at the prospect at first, but that excitement quickly dampened. “I had been warned the sixth grade group of students were difficult to teach,” Trine said. “Difficult was a term too mild to describe this group ... I am saddened by what has been allowed to take place on a daily basis.” … ... Teachers have been physically shoved and threatened, and the offender is sent right back to class with no consequence. Teachers suffer physical, mental and verbal abuse daily. No consequences ever.”… Board member Dean Vickstrom said he has noticed issues of concern when visiting the schools. … Coen said the majority of students in the district behave appropriately, but acknowledged an apparent upswing in student misbehavior. “We need to do more because there seems to be more issues,” he said. It is difficult to say for sure what is driving the increase, but Coen believes it may have to do with increasing poverty rates and a shrinking middle class, resulting in a more socially stratified community and greater variety in behavioral expectations….


bottom of page