Kennebec Journal quotes Angelosante, Artesani in article on school safety, happiness

The Kennebec Journal quoted University of Maine faculty members Courtney Angelosante, a special education lecturer, and Jim Artesani, associate dean in the College of Education and Human Development, in an article about measures to improve safety and happiness in schools. Palermo Consolidated School and others in the Sheepscot Valley school district, Regional School Unit 12, recently have focused on positive reinforcement techniques instead of punishment to correct student behavior. The schools have implemented a set of guidelines created by researchers at the University of Oregon and focused on the importance of data and the need to instruct students with behavioral disorders on social skills, according to the article. The staff at Palermo Consolidated School makes an effort to provide five times more positive than negative feedback to students as part of a plan to curb poor behavior before it turns into something more serious and possibly violent, according to the article. “It’s not just a good idea; it’s based on research,” said Angelosante. “The higher that ratio, the higher the feelings of safety. It’s not about phony instances of praise, but talking about, ‘You’re acting in line with what we value here.’ That’s an important way for us to build a community of safety and respect.” Staff members try to frame corrections in a positive way and when students do misbehave, data for the incidents are carefully recorded. At Palermo, the methods seem to be working — the number of students referred to the office more than once per year dropped from 40 to 20 percent last year, the KJ reported. UMaine’s College of Education and Human Development received a $246,000 grant to help districts implement the guidelines, the article states. “There is closer attention to students who are exhibiting various types of need, and the likelihood of a student not having their needs addressed is reduced,” Artesani said. “In some school shootings, people say, ‘We had no idea this person would do this,’ but there’s a long distance between seeing someone who is displaying some things you’d be concerned about, and then jumping to, ‘This person would bring guns to school and shoot people.’ There needs to be a way to address the needs of kids long before it gets to that.” The Sun Journal published the KJ article.