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Davenport school board discussing youth participation in crisis response and violence prevention

Davenport school board discussing youth participation in crisis response and violence prevention

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J. B. Young Opportunity Center main entrance located at 1702 N. Main Street in Davenport.

Incorporating student voices into the Davenport Community School District’s efforts to improve its response to crisis and violence is an attempt to better the entire system, officials said Monday.

Developing a uniform crisis response and violence prevention plan is part of the district’s efforts to address issues that led to citations from the Iowa Department of Education. Those issues include providing equitable education for Black students. The compliance effort is under the oversight of the Iowa State Board of Education.

Officials have said the crisis response and violence prevention plan is an early step in addressing the equity issues. District officials said in March that students would be given opportunities to participate in the plan’s implementation.

“We want there to be a level of authenticity — we’re not just checking a box,” Shane Williams, the Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency’s director of educational services, said during a presentation on the topic at the district school board’s committee of the whole meeting Monday night. “This is a legitimate attempt for us to improve the entire system predicated on student voice and student empowerment.”

The student element of the CRVP plan is still being fleshed out, Williams said. The teams, at the elementary, middle school and high school level, would also still have to be trained, but are expected to be actively working in the coming school year.

Elements of setting up the program include incorporating culturally responsive and social/emotional learning practices into how the teams will function, he said.

“Ultimately what we are trying to drive is equitable outcomes for all children, so all kids feel like they have not just a stake in their education but they have ownership and empowerment in driving what that educational environment looks like,” Williams said.

During the discussion Monday night, Williams said the role of the students teams could be expanded beyond the CRVP plan.

Students already have some outlets — student council, for instance — but the teams are a way to leverage student voice to impact the entire system, Williams said. CRVP will be its focus in the beginning, but it will be much more expansive and inclusive effort.

“We started thinking that youth leadership teams could be so much more, empowering students to have voice and ownership over the school culture should expand beyond the CRVP effort,” he said.

The district’s other work on the crisis response and violence prevention plan has included building consensus among its staff about crisis response and violence prevention being a priority and also training that staff in a consistent set of actions it can take should an event such as a fight at a building occur, according to previous reports on the effort.

The plan includes multiple teams designed to support and provide feedback to each other when dealing with incidents — at the administrative level, at individual buildings and in the district community at large, according to a previous presentation on the work.

At Monday night’s meeting, the board also was given an assessment of early literacy in the district’s kindergarten through sixth grade classes.

Testing results indicate that literacy largely worsened in the 2020-2021 school year during the disruptions caused by COVID-19, Williams, who also participated in this presentation, said.

All but the first grade showed a drop in literacy between the fall of 2020 and the winter of 2021, according to charts presented at the meeting.

That is the reverse of what is expected in a typical year, Williams said.

The district is working on immediate and long-term means of addressing the issue, according to discussion during the meeting. The issue is expected to be addressed again in a meeting in May.

The committee of the whole meeting was recorded and that recording, which includes the full presentations and discussions on both topics, is available on the district’s YouTube page.

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