HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) — Huntington East Middle School (HEMS) held a Local School Improvement Councils (LSIC) meeting on Thursday at 5 p.m.

Meeting leaders started the meeting with a report that 49.4% of students require special academic needs, including special education, frequent discipline, Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), homelessness assistance or other reasons.

Meeting leaders also focused on solutions to improve the school’s social climate and culture for both students and staff, given that HEMS’s principal was recently investigated for allegedly telling students to not report sexual assault. Additionally, officials discussed ways to improve student discipline methods.

Ideas to improve HEMS’s social climate included:

  • Posting information and updates on social media;
  • Creating fact sheets on issues important to both students and parents;
  • Establishing a Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO), which HEMS currently does not have;
  • Team building between school staff and parents;
  • Bringing in college student mentors from Marshall University;
  • Allowing eighth-graders to be mentors for sixth-graders;
  • Creating a social committee;
  • Bringing in parent tutors and mentors for students;
  • Allowing parents with certain degrees to tutor students in those subjects or related ones;
  • Yearly trauma training for teachers and allowing parents to attend those trainings;
  • Anxiety training for students;
  • Training staff on educating transgender students as well as protection and inclusivity for those students (a former HEMS student approached school officials and offered to do this);
  • Establishing ways for students to report staff misconduct without fear of retaliation from school administrators;
  • Maintaining a respectful tone when disciplining students; and
  • Painting and posting positive reinforcement statements in hallways and bathrooms.

Meeting leaders and attendees also discussed options to discipline kids on campus rather than out-of-school suspension. Meeting leaders said kids who are getting in trouble are falling behind and further acting out because they are frustrated by feeling academically lost.

Parents and school staff had several ideas about discipline solutions, including:

  • Bringing in volunteers to help lost students;
  • Reducing group punishments; and
  • Establishing cool-off rooms. Officials say the school has a large, empty, concrete room, but they cannot use the room without renovations because there are some safety hazards.

In addition to social climate and discipline, parents and meeting officials discussed expanding resources, such as:

  • Meeting basic needs and providing family resources;
  • Later afterschool meetings for parents with full-time jobs;
  • Dropping off schoolwork packets to homes of virtual or suspended students;
  • Teaching financial literacy to students by creating a Future Bankers Club.
  • Gaining business partners for additional funding;
  • Mental health emphasis;
  • Creating a school resource mobile application;
  • Evening buses to transport families to afterschool events; and
  • More volunteer chaperons for field trips.

Toward the end of the meeting, officials took questions and comments from virtual attendees.

For more information on HEMS or LSIC meetings and other events, visit the school’s website or parent Facebook page.