Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Schools graded on discipline


Rate of expulsions, suspensions noted

By Lori Hayes
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Most Northern Kentucky schools have fewer expulsions and suspensions than state averages, with smaller numbers of students being punished for breaking laws or district policies.

        The region's districts fared better than much of the state, with lower rates of reported law and school violations last year, according to a statewide school safety report released Tuesday.

        In the last of three reports for the 1999-2000 school year, the Kentucky Center for School Safety looked at district information on how many students violated criminal laws or district rules and the types of consequences the offenders received, from expulsion to paddling.

FOR MORE INFO
   To read all three of the Kentucky Center for School Safety's 2000 reports, go online at www.kysafeschools.org
        Across the state, schools are 10 times more likely to suspend students for bad behavior as they are to expel them.

        “The most unpleasant thing I have to do is to recommend to the board that a student be expelled,” said Jack Moreland, superintendent of Covington Independent Schools. “We're just announcing that we're giving up on that student.”

        State rates for expulsions, alternative placements and paddling averaged fewer than 1 per 100 students. The state average for suspensions for school violations, however, was more than 10 per 100 students.

        The law and school violations were reported in rates per 100 students for expulsions without education services, expulsions with education services, suspensions, alternative placements and corporal punishment. Higher rates mean more incidents.

        Suspensions for school violations was the only category in which most Northern Kentucky schools exceeded state averages. More than half of the region's 18 districts had a higher suspension rate than the state average.

        Covington, which had the highest suspension rate in Northern Kentucky for school violations, had 22.4 suspensions per 100 students, followed by Erlanger-Elsmere Independent Schools with 20.3 and Newport Independent Schools with 20.2.

        “When you're seeing 20 to 25 percent of a population being suspended, we need to zero in on this and try to make something better,” said Jon Akers, director of the Center for School Safety.

        Covington officials say the district is working to lower the number of suspensions through alternative programs and by working with family resource centers, social service agencies and juvenile courts.

        “Our kids and our families are much more aware of what the consequences are,” said Lester Gamble, pupil personnel director.

        Tuesday's report also compared discipline rates for white and black students. Rates for districts with fewer than 10 black students were not included to protect the students' privacy. Nine Northern Kentucky districts fell in this category.

        Of the districts whose rates were reported, three Northern Kentucky districts - Covington, Newport and Pendleton County - were twice as likely to suspend a black student as a white student. And in Kenton County Schools, black students were nearly three times as likely to be suspended for breaking school rules.

        “When students are involved in incidents, there are consequences,” Covington's Mr. Gamble said. “We deal with each individual case.”

        Tuesday's report focused on discipline and doesn't include a breakdown by district of the types of offenses that led to the punishment.

        Law violations range from theft to drugs to carrying a gun, while school violations include defiance of authority, disturbing class, fighting, smoking or profanity.

        This is the second year Kentucky schools have been required to report school safety data to the state. Ohio does not collect this information from its schools.

        The information was released in three reports. The first came in November, analyzing state and regional data. The second report, released in February, broke down student information by race, gender, age, economic status and other measures.

        Boone County Schools, the largest Northern Kentucky school district with 13,000 students, was below state averages for all types of discipline consequences.

        Joe Humbert, school safety director for Boone County Schools, credits the district's school police officers, who spend a lot of time counseling students. Every middle and high school has a full-time officer.

        “The resource officers deal with problems before they get out of hand,” Mr. Humbert said.

        Mr. Akers said these rates should help schools identify their trouble areas and revise school safety plans, required by the state.

        “The schools are a mirror of what's happening at home. If the kids are misbehaving at school, you can pretty well be sure they're misbehaving at home,” he said. “Schools are not miracle workers. We get what we receive from home.”
       



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