Unsettling suspension stats
In today's Sun, Brent and I report on the city school board's vote last night to require principals to get permission from CEO Andres Alonso or his designee before they can suspend a student for more than a week. (See our story here.) Previously, principals could suspend a child for up to two weeks without an administrative review.
Alonso says that a two-week suspension could have such a profound impact on a student's life that it should not be allowed to go unchecked.
To put the issue in a national context, I recommend checking out an article published yesterday in our sister paper, the Chicago Tribune, which analyzed national suspension data. It found that, in every state but Idaho, "black students are being suspended in numbers greater than would be expected from their proportion of the student population.... And on average across the nation, black students are suspended and expelled at nearly three times the rate of white students."
The article quotes a former principal in Austin, Texas, who virtually eliminated disciplinary referrals at her school, which, like Baltimore's schools, is majority-minority. "I am not going to give up on a child and suspend him or send him to an alternative school," she said. "Washing our hands of a child will never change his behavior, it just makes it worse. These are children. It's up to us to be creative to find ways to help them behave."
At the same time, as Alonso readily acknowledges, Baltimore's schools aren't equipped to offer all the in-school suspension and other alternative programs needed to keep kids engaged academically when they're away from their regular classes. And kept in their regular classes, of course, kids recommended for suspension are often really disruptive.
Educators, parents, advocates: What do you think is the best way to handle kids with disciplinary problems?