By Bob Weaver

With values and culture changing, middle schools across America have reported an increase in behavioral problems, a problem Calhoun Middle School principal Carla Taylor defines as "disrespect for the rules, procedures, teachers and other students."

"Fortunately, it is a minority of students," said Taylor, who indicated about 5% of the student population are frequently disruptive, with "a few students repeating the bad behavior over and over."

Most of the problems are verbal abuse, but there is bullying which sometimes results in physical fights.

Calhoun's Middle School started the Respect and Protect program over a year ago to try and help the problem. Parts of the R & P program are now included in the high school.

Taylor says the program has helped significantly.

"There has been a decrease in detention, suspensions and expulsions," she said, with most parents approving the program, according to a survey.

In less than one year in-school suspensions went from 191 to 138, and out-of-school suspensions dropped 41 percent. Expulsions dropped 71%.

Taylor said the program experienced a loss this year with the cutting of the In-School Suspension room, which required monitoring by a teacher. The cut was made because of tight finances, she said.

When students misbehave, teachers issue Behavior Intervention Forms (BIFs), which are sent home to parents.

Students in middle and high school are now getting conduct grades on their report cards.

Eighth grade teacher Stephanie Carpenter, who is a member of the R & P core team, says "It's important to recognize that most students are respectful and present few problems."

"Working with problem students, we want them to see a light at the end of the tunnel," she said, noting the program is based not just on punishment, but positive rewards.

Last year, over 25% of middle school students had 100% good conduct, and were issued certificates at the end of the school year. The R & P program also offers outings, field trips and movies.

"We're trying to recruit more adult mentors to help with the program," said Carpenter.

Recently, Mr. and Mrs. Martin Wach worked with middle school students in writing a children's book, which will be published.

Martin Wach, aware of significant behavioral problems in other localities, said local students were among the most respectful the authors have encountered.

Principal Taylor says Calhoun's Respect and Protect program is being adopted by the WV State Department of Education.