As hands fly up from the audience, the discussion moderator descends in
a purposeful frenzy, grabbing a microphone off the podium and
running it to the next speaker in line. Her feet moves quickly,
brows furrowed, concentrating hard at the task at hand.
When each speaker approaches the microphone, they clear their
throat and speak candidly about making amendments to the Liberty
Elementary School (LES) handbook. This scene could be set at a board of education meeting, but members of the audience are sitting “Indian-style” on a gymnasium floor and the panelists are all less than five feet tall. The fourth grade speakers are all part of the PBIS (Positive
Behavioral Intervention and Support) student panel, an open forum
discussion with LES Principal Jackie Harris, LES Assistant
Principal Victoria Curry and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Silver.
For the past few months, fourth grade students have been reviewing
their schools’ PBIS data and analyzing the student handbook line
by line to determine whether or not the handbook’s rules are
addressed with enough detail.
Students took the opportunity to ask questions and voice concerns to top
administrators about the procedures outlined in the handbook
regarding subordinate behavior in the school and on the bus.
The forum resulted in very tangible results: a pledge to move
forward with revisiting the vocabulary in the handbook to make it
easier for young students to understand.
The forum was organized by reading and writing teacher Mrs. Jodi
“Through this lesson, students learned about the power of the pen!
They wrote their letters with such conviction and passion with the
hope of making their school an even better place,” she said.
Listening to them made my heart swell; they were all so proud for
trying to make a difference.”
The module for this lesson suggested that teachers have their
students review data from a school in New Jersey. However; Mrs.
Fiddle-Lieberman and the fourth grade teachers thought it would be
more effective their students studied their own school’s PBIS
While preparing for the panel, students broke into subgroups and
wrote letters to their administrators to express their interested
in an amendment to their school handbook based on their findings.
By preparing for and presenting at the forum, each student met the
following Common Core State Standards:Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an
- experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and
relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes;
- speak clearly at an understandable pace; and
- Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and
convey ideas and information clearly.
“Our fourth graders not only used real data to determine real
school issues and offer solutions, but they presented their
information like experts,” Mrs. Harris said. “Their work has the
potential to improve our school for everybody.”
Some students expressed concerns for stricter discipline,
saying they have witnessed inappropriate behavior in the bathrooms
and on the playground. Others raised suggestions for improving bus
behavior, such as hiring extra monitors or letting students play
with iPads or similar devices to decrease bullying situations.
“I love that they came prepared to discuss problems and
solutions,” Mrs. Harris said. “They gave us valuable information
Mrs. Curry agreed, adding: “I am so proud to have been a part
of this panel. The fourth graders were articulate and thoughtful
in their discussion. Their teachers prepared them well for this
For pictures from the panel, visit the district’s Facebook page.