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SHS tackles rising number of referrals with 'Lunch and Learn' suspension

Clockwise from left, Billy McClelland, Logan Lien, Wes Engebretson, Mason Berti, Jason Byrd and Seth Smetak play a game during the Role Playing Game Club at Superior High School on Wednesday, Nov. 7. Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com

A sharp rise in student referrals led to a one-week suspension of Superior High School's Lunch and Learn program.

The move came after three weeks of looking at the numbers, according to Principal Greg Posewitz. As of Oct. 29, 728 referrals had been issued at SHS. Five years ago, the school issued 1,200 referrals during the entire school year.

"We've seen a significant increase this year," Posewitz said. "And we just realized that we needed to do something."

The bulk of referrals were for skipping and noncompliance, according to a presentation given to students last week. The use of tobacco and vaping products accounted for 28 referrals; 22 were for fights or assaults; five for drugs. While referrals were given out all hours of the school day, the largest number were issued for incidents that happened around lunchtime.

Administrators decided the best way to discuss the problem with students was through advisory, which takes place at the same time as "Lunch and Learn."

The program allows students to leave the lunch room to attend tutoring sessions with teachers outside class or participate in student organizations that would meet during that time.

Advisory takes place during a roughly 25-minute time frame every Monday. Tuesday through Friday, it's devoted to "Lunch and Learn."

"We know it's a tremendous benefit for our students, whether they're going to see a teacher for help or they're in some of these clubs that help them build relationships," Posewitz said.

Last week, Lunch and Learn was suspended to open the lines of communication. SHS senior Adam LaVine spoke with the Superior School Board about the suspension during a committee of the whole meeting Monday, Nov. 5.

"During that time, the student council met with Mr. Posewitz, the principal, and talked about solutions that we could take to reduce the poor behavior by students," he said "We also had class meetings in which the entire student body met to discuss these problems, including vaping and fights, which have both been pretty large issues at the high school since the beginning of the school year."

Administrators expected to shutter Lunch and Learn for two weeks, but felt comfortable reopening it after one based on student feedback.

"Most of the kids here are fabulous," said SHS Liaison Officer Bonnie Beste of the Superior Police Department. "Just because there have been 728 referrals doesn't mean 728 kids here are getting those."

The reason for the uptick in referrals is unknown.

"It's something we're having problems putting a finger on," Posewitz said. "We can't really attribute it to any one specific thing, so that's why we decided we needed to get the whole school and get some input, feedback from everybody."

Students and teachers are settling into a new building, but the principal said that isn't the main factor.

"These are some of the same issues we were seeing last year. They just seem to have escalated very quickly," Posewitz said.

The school's also taking a strong stance on students skipping classes and wandering the halls, Beste said, to get control of things.

"We need a safe and orderly environment for all the kids," she said.

Although no immediate changes are expected, the week in advisory pinpointed areas that could be addressed. They included improving school culture and student awareness and keeping better track of students, particularly during the lunch hour.

"I personally have noticed an improvement in the environment around the school since this suspension, as many students tend to be more aware of the many problems that have been going around since the beginning of school this year," LaVine told the Board.

The Lunch and Learn suspension took place close to the end of the first grading quarter.

"It was just unfortunate timing that everything just kind of came to a head when it did, but it was always our intention to get it back up and running as quickly as we could," Posewitz said.

The students didn't appreciate to the way the discussion was started, LaVine said.

"But I'm glad that we were able to address these problems and I look forward to working with school administration to make sure that we don't have to do this again," the senior said.

Improving student awareness appears to have helped, Beste said. No fights had been reported as of Thursday, Nov. 8.

"I don't want to give out a bunch of tickets, that's not why I'm here," Beste said. "I'm here to make these kids successful."

And that's a job for the entire community.

"We have so many kids with so many stressors put on them through our society; they've got so much pressure on them just being kids these days, and the violence in our society, that it's something the school district, the police department can't fix all by themselves," Beste said.

"We need our families to be very involved with the kids in the school."

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