Wednesday, July 28, 2004

CPS rethinks suspensions


Students won't be just kicked out and ignored, district says

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati Public Schools is hoping to dramatically reduce the district's rate of expulsions and suspensions through new and expanded alternative education programs for students who would otherwise be kicked out of school.

High rates of disciplinary actions caused CPS students to miss thousands of school days last year alone. But district officials, who announced the changes Tuesday, say the new programs will help keep troubled students in school by allowing them to receive education and behavior counseling in an alternative setting.

The programs will be implemented this school year.

The district also hopes to change the behavioral culture in schools by having teachers and students emphasize positive behavior, respect for others and responsibility instead of simply addressing bad behavior.

"From a parent's perspective, the idea is to keep kids engaged and handle behavior problems constructively," said Carolyn Turner, executive director of Cincinnati Parents for Public Schools, an advocacy group.

Raising academic achievement is crucial in Cincinnati Public School District, which the state has labeled in "academic emergency" - the lowest of five rankings for student performance.

Superintendent Alton Frailey has said repeatedly that suspending and expelling students with no alternative education does not help them to achieve.

A special report on school discipline published in the Enquirer in February found that CPS' expulsion rate for 2002-03 was the highest of all Ohio's public school districts. The district expelled students 645 times and issued 13,200 suspensions.

Officials hope to reduce those numbers by placing students who would otherwise be suspended or expelled in the alternative-education programs. Under the old system, children who were suspended or expelled would be sent home - often with no schoolwork - for up to 10 days for suspension or up to 80 days for an expulsion.

The alternative programs for grades 4-8 will be housed in a former school building on Rhode Island Avenue. Grades 9-12 will be housed in an empty school building on Baltimore Avenue.

The alternative programs will take the place of Project Succeed, a school for troubled students. Project Succeed was not an option for children who were candidates for suspension or expulsion.

"Within each school setting, if the culture is such that children feel valued and appreciated, behavior will improve," said Rosa Blackwell, deputy superintendent.

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E-mail jmrozowski@enquirer.com




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