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DCPS schools implement new approach to discipline

ABC7

There is a new approach to behavior management at DC Public Schools.

When students arrive at Langley Elementary School in Northeast, the principal greets them warmly with hugs and high-fives. Third grader Da'vion Vaughn told ABC7 News, "It's something helpful in the morning if you're not feeling good."

Once inside, students start the day with song. The self-affirming and positive interactions are part of a classroom management program known as Conscious Discipline, which focuses on three brain-body states. Principal Vanessa Drumm explained, "There's the survival state where you fight or flight, there's the emotional state when you're in your emotions, and then there's the executive state where the best cognitive work happens."

To prime students for learning, teachers are trained to use strategies that make children feel safe and connected. ABC7 News captured an instructor encouraging a student to use deep breathing exercises to release his anger. Nine-year-old Cassandra Campos said, "Basically it helps you calm down."

Another important aspect of conscious discipline is emphasizing the school as a family. Children enthusiastically chanted, "We belong. We are family!"

The hope is that the connectedness, problem-solving, conflict resolution and self-control techniques will lead to fewer behavior problems and increased student performance.

Teacher Stephanie Gunter has seen a difference in her students since the program was implemented this school year. "They're a lot more independent in resolving conflict within each other as well as being able to just regulate and manage their own emotions so that they can be successful in the classroom," she said.

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