Suspicious numbers not so suspicious
I guess I qualify as what Sara calls an "old timer" because I do remember why the suspension rate went down abruptly in the city during the 2004-2005 school year.
The city school system was trying to avoid having its schools labeled "presistently dangerous" under No Child Left Behind. Principals and teachers told us that year that the city school administration had warned them to stop suspending so many students because they feared too many schools would receive the designation the following year.
The problem was that teachers weren't given any training or help in reducing misbehavior in the classroom. So teachers reported that when students misbehaved and were sent to the office, nothing happened. Students weren't being suspended, even for serious infractions, and so began an escalation of violence in the schools.
Some readers may remember a rash of fires in high schools and middle schools as well as an increase in fights that year. Fire engines began parking in front of some schools, like Walbrook High School, for most of the school day. Eventually, the violence subsided, but schools in the city did get the dangerous label.