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The total number of student suspensions has decreased from 1,097 in 2011-12 to 623 in 2015-16, or by 43%, according to the annual student suspensions and discipline report presented to the District 202 Board at their September 19 meeting.

Carrie Levy, Director of Research, Evaluation and Assessment, told the Board that, while there was a slight “uptick” in the number of suspensions and disciplinary actions this past year, overall trends are showing a decrease in the number of suspensions issued. Students are spending “one-third less time outside of class,” said Ms. Levy, ”More are going to alternative to suspension” programs.

During the same five year period, the number of other disciplinary actions has increased from 4,612 to 5,377, or by 17%.

The accompanying chart, Fig. 1, shows the trends in the number of suspensions and the number of other disciplinary actions during the five years 2011-12 through 2015-15.

Discrepancies Discussed

Ms. Levy also told the Board that there has been a decline in the suspension rates for black, Hispanic and white students. The suspension rate is the percentage of students in a group or subgroups who have been suspended. “While there are still discrepancies between groups, the gap is not as wide as it was,” said Ms. Levy.

The chart, Fig. 2, shows the trend in suspension rates for black, Hispanic and white students during the five years 2011-12 through 2015-16.

Marcus Campbell, Assistant Superintendent and Principal, read a statement to the Foard which said, “EHTS is fully aware of the disproportionate number of black students who are suspended. We believe the school-to-prison pipeline is real and we are putting a number of things in place to address these disparities.” Mr. Campbell said the school is “looking at suspension as well as referral data,” that he has discussed this data with staff and there is a, “challenge for all of us in our roles to address these disparities.” More restorative justice protocols have been implemented and are taking the place of suspensions, he said.

“We are being honest about the narrative that depicts Black children as overly aggressive and hostile,” Mr. Campbell said. “And while we know this is not the case, we are working with staff to understand the disconnect that some are experiencing at school. We are working to create a culture of belonging. Through black male and female summits and other programs, we talk about the issues they are facing and follow-up to help supplement their well being. We recognize that many of our black students are asking for support. We are doing all we can do to assist them, and call on support from the Board and the community to address these challenges and model the behavior we want from our students.”

Board Reaction

Gretchen Livingston said she “acknowledges everything” Mr. Campbell said as “spot on,” but she did not want to “lose sight that there is a lot of good here” the
“conscious efforts made over the years.” Ms. Livingston said, “We do ourselves a disservice when we talk straight numbers. Enrollment is up and that makes a difference.”

“Something important and positive is happening here,” said Board Member Jonathan Baum. “These numbers are significant. They show how we deal with discipline offensives is why we got rid of inappropriate acts, downgrading offenses that are most susceptible to discrimination.”

This report shows we are “heading in the right direction,” said Board Member Monique Parsons. “I feel positive and proud.” She said she appreciates that the school “recognizes disparities” and is “acting not waiting”.

Mark Metz, Board member said, looking at the “big picture” the “trends are terrific, but why? There is a great deal of intentionality happening in different ways. We are making the kids feel they belong, intentionally. Professional development is paying off and we are seeing results, that we are on the right track.” There are “challenges still out there,” but we are changing the culture of students and faculty.”

Board President Pat Savage-Williams said that Mr. Campbell’s statement was “excellent.” The school has been “working on different levels, training to be more racially conscious, but school-to-prison is real, and we have to be careful.”

Ann Sills, Board member, said the report is a “call for mentorship in the community, that students are not just numbers.”

Board Member Doug Holt pointed out that the report identifies “a small number of students.” Ninety-one percent of students have not been suspended. He also asked why the school uses suspensions at all.

Vernon Clark, ETHS Associate Principal for Educational Services, responded, “Some situations are extreme and students need some time out. Hopefully for us it is an anomaly. It is what is done least often. We don’t want students suspended; we don’t want them out of class.”