By Dawnita Fogleman

Staff Writer

In addition to behavior, students social and emotional needs will be the topics of focus group discussions at the Woodward High School Library on Wednesday, Sept. 25th in preparation for a future State Behavior Summit.

Professor of School Psychology at Oklahoma State University Dr. Gary Duhon, PhD BCBA has been conducting focus groups in school districts around the state. His goal is to gather data from teachers, parents and even the students themselves in order to come up with real solutions.

“We're not effectively working together to solve the behavioral problems in our state in schools,” Duhon said. “It’s not working and I'd love to say that we're making progress, but we're not. We're falling further and further behind. And it's because everybody's working in isolation.”

Duhon decided it was time to get people together and sit them down to talk about the issues and come up with some solutions.

“We'll come up with some ideas for solutions relative to the problems we identify,” Duhon explained. “That's going to result in, hopefully, legislative changes and curriculum modifications at the college level and additional support structures being created to help teachers in the field.”

In addition to suspension and expulsion type problem behaviors in the schools, Duhon is also collecting information about perception from the people involved and affected by these issues. That information will be presented at the Behavioral Summit to legislators, personnel from the Department of Education, higher education and other stakeholders.

“We're going to gather that information and hopefully help elucidate the issue a little bit more clearly so that we can come up with solutions when that summit does happen,” Duhon shared. “We’ll have some good data that will drive our discussion and our decision making.”

According to Duhon, some of the questions students will be presented with are, what problem behaviors they’re seeing in schools, what they think some of the causes are for those behaviors, how does it affect the students, and what do they think can be done to improve upon those things.

“We're just getting their opinion on how they perceive the problems that they face. And so we're hoping that we can get some insight on the issues that they deal with on a daily basis,” Duhon said. “The support they get from the school, the support they get from the people around them in the community. And hopefully, we can go from there to make things a little bit better.”

When he began these focus groups around the state, Duhon admitted he was afraid he might hear a “blame game” from parents and teachers, but he’s been surprised.

“We all tend to see the problem in others,” Duhon said. “And we're not getting that as much as I thought.”

According to Duhon, teachers are really being reflective. Teachers are seeing a need for more training and support to help them know how to support the kids. On the same accord, parents are acknowledging the need to do more at home. Both groups are seeing weakness and really want to work together to help alleviate the problem.

“I think it's clear to everyone that we need to do something different,” Duhon said. “We're getting a lot of really neat and interesting ideas from both community members, parents and teachers.”

Some of the ideas are training, collaboration, understanding perspective, and engaging in more trauma informed instructional practices.

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