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October 5, 2011

National report highlights punitive suspensions of minority students, which are on the rise in Baltimore

A national report released today underscores the widely-known disparity in suspensions of minority students and their non-minority counterparts.

In the report, Maryland is highlighted for its efforts to curb punitive suspensions and expulsions, and Baltimore is highlighted for its effort of significantly reducing its suspension rate in recent years--though the number of suspensions in the district is up this year, including those for "soft offenses" like disrespect and insubordination.

The report, titled “Discipline Policies, Successful Schools, and Racial Justice”  was published by the National Education Policy Center (NPEC), and released in collaboration with the Annenberg Institute for School Reform and the Dignity in Schools Campaign. Using recent data from the U.S. Department of Education, and data from states that have  like North Carolina, the report's authors conclude that harsh discipline is applied disproportionately to students of color.

The report highlights troubling 2006 data, published last year, collected by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. It shows that more than 28% of black male middle school students had been suspended at least once-- nearly three times the 10% rate for white males;  18% of black females in middle school were suspended, more than four times as often as white females.


The report was released in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, with officials advocating more productive solutions that suspending and expelling students. Its authors concluded what we have all heard in Baltimore as the city has campaigned to reduce its suspensions from roughly 26,000 students in 2003 to 11,000 this year: pushing students out of school results in poor outcomes like increased dropout rates and juvenile crime. 

Jonathan Brice, who oversees student support services for the city school system, headed to Washington for the release of the report where he presented the city's successes of implementing positive interventions in city schools, and streamlining discipline policies.

"This report gives further confirmation that city schools is on the right path," Brice said, pointing to the city's recently celebrated graduation and dropout rates. "One of the things that we know is that students who are not in school, are not able to learn. And suspension and truancy is taking kids away from what's important." 

Brice discussed the variety of ways that schools employ alternatives, such as character education programs, restorative justice, community conferencing.  The system has also focused on building a code of conduct that is consistent, Brice said, so that "we have an expectation that an incident that would occur in school A, would receive the same consequences in school Z."

But, this year, the city's suspension rates rose for the first time in four years. About 1,300 more students were suspended last school year than in 2009-2010.

"I think every year we have to be reminded about losing the lowest level consequences first, that every incident does not require an out-of-school suspension," Brice said of the uptick. 

While the system noted an increase of suspensions for violence, like physical attacks on students (385 more suspensions than last year) and adults (200 more), Baltimore city schools CEO Andres Alonso said he was concerned that "soft offenses" rounded out the list of increased incidents. 

City school data shows there were 238 more students suspended in 2010-2011 school year for "disrespect" than in the previous year-- the second-highest increase among the city's 2011 suspensions; 192 students were suspended for "inciting/participating in a public disturbance;" and 82 more students were suspended for "insubordination."

When the data was released in August, Alonso said the data could indicate that educators are resorting to suspensions as a means to maintain order.

"When I see increases in those soft offenses that are not directly tied to violence, I start to get nervous,"Alonso said told a room full of principals. "We'll be watching."

The city also noted a slight uptick in expulsions last school year, according to data obtained through a public information request. Expulsions rose from 534 in 2009-2010 school year, to 558 in the 2010-2011 year. In the 2008-2009 school year, 703 students were expelled.

Last school year, the incident categories that noted the most expulsions was physical attacks on adults with 217, and "other weapons," (besides firearms), which resulted in 132.  The category "weapons possession" had the third highest number, with 82 expulsions. 

Posted by Erica Green at 2:42 PM | | Comments (20)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

Comments

I'm confused...if kids stopped behaving in a manner that warrants suspension, wouldn't the number of suspensions decrease independent of the teachers and administrators who hold them accountable for behavior?

When did insubordination become a "soft" offense? When kids can look the adults in the eye and say, "no, I'm not doing that" its not only unsafe, it creates disorder and a disruption to the learning environment that our kids are guaranteed BY LAW! Has our society and workplace changed to a point where disrespect and insubordination are tolerated? Last time I told my boss to f-off, I ended up looking for a new job.

Can you imagine what the suspension numbers would look like if we actually issued the suspensions that were deserved based on actual behavior? For the past ten years, its no secret that teachers and administrators have been pressured to not issue appropriate consequences to minority students to keep the numbers looking good.

Is it wrong for me to simply state the fact that a growing number of students simply don't think rules apply. My kid comes home frustrated every day because he sits in a class where he wants to learn, but the teacher spends a ridiculous amout of time dealing with the same students.

And yes, she plans engaging lessons, she has called home, issued detentions, required conferences where the parents don't show but somehow these disruptive kids have more rights than my kid.

I love these reports because they continue to remove student and parent responsibility - once again teachers, its all your fault!

@Realteacher--You are so correct on this one. Try having a second grader tell you that he won't stop running around the room because his parent told him it was OK if he needed to get up and move. Or a 10th grader whose every other word is a profanity tell you that she has a "condition" and that she doesn't have to behave. When are we going to stop making excuses and make students and parents responsible for the actions of their students in the classroom? I have called parents, set up mediations, referred students for counseling and on and on. Only to have a parent tell me that they are going to report me because I am picking on their child. How about the students who are actually trying to learn and do the right thing? When will their rights be looked into?

I agree with you. Schools that permit "soft offenses" are not preparing their students for the real world because telling your employer to f-off would not be tolerated. Maybe the people who think insubordination is acceptable behavior would like to spend an hour or two with the kind of students I deal with on a regular basis.

"When kids can look the adults in the eye and say, "no, I'm not doing that" its not only unsafe, it creates disorder and a disruption to the learning environment that our kids are guaranteed BY LAW! "

I thought about this statement all day on Friday. I lost track of the number of times students said, "No", to me. "Stop eating (bacon and eggs) in class", "Don't sit on the desk", "Come back in the room and sit down.", "Get out your notebook and complete the writing assignment.", "Get off the phone.", "Stop talking during the test." "Stop saying f**k". "Take the earphones out of your ears", etc. I am supposed to follow the district's Code of Conduct in dealing with such situations, but it is a very time-consuming process, especially when you have numerous violations each day. Then, when you do follow it, there are no/minor consequences, resulting in the students getting the message that they can continue to do whatever they want.

By allowing students to constantly get away with insubordination, we are doing them a great disservice. They are learning that following rules is optional. In the meantime, the students who want to learn are getting short-changed by the constant disruptions.

These statistics are a great example of loaded language. Students and parents are not victims in this system. Victims are blameless. The behaviors that lead to suspensions are learned early on from home, and only a cultural/social revolution from within the black community will turn these behaviors (and the statistics) around.

If we should be outraged about anything from this article, it's that parents are continuing to place the blame on the teachers that give their time to communities that give nothing in return.

Having hit "5 of my 15 free pageviews" for the month I don't think I'll be able to participate in much of a discussion, but considering all the comments on this post are only putting forward one point of view I'd like to chime in with another. Maybe there are times when suspensions are being over used. Maybe they reflect an atmosphere in the school that is not nurturing or supportive of these students who have problems.

When you look and see that students with IEPs are being suspended more often than non-special needs students it indicates to me that suspensions are being used when schools can't or won't follow an IEP or a BIP. The idea that I see expressed here is that every suspension reflects bad students and parents and could never indicate a problem with the school (teacher and/or administrators). It's hard for me to let pass without a rebuttal. These administrators that are so blameless are the ones that can't be trusted to evaluate teachers fairly, right?

The bottom line to me is a question: Would making it easier to suspend students for "soft" offenses make our schools better? Clearly, nothing magical is happening to students when they are out of school. When they come back, why should we expect different behavior? If the school doesn't change and the student doesn't change, it's just going to happen again, isn't it? Does that situation help the "good" kids? I'm all for doing something to change the climate of a school where insolence and disruptions run rampant. I just don't see how throwing more kids out of school, as opposed to some sort of structured behavior plan, is going to help anyone.

Having hit "5 of my 15 free pageviews" for the month I don't think I'll be able to participate in much of a discussion, but considering all the comments on this post are only putting forward one point of view I'd like to chime in with another. Maybe there are times when suspensions are being over used. Maybe they reflect an atmosphere in the school that is not nurturing or supportive of these students who have problems.

When you look and see that students with IEPs are being suspended more often than non-special needs students it indicates to me that suspensions are being used when schools can't or won't follow an IEP or a BIP. The idea that I see expressed here is that every suspension reflects bad students and parents and could never indicate a problem with the school (teacher and/or administrators). It's hard for me to let pass without a rebuttal. These administrators that are so blameless are the ones that can't be trusted to evaluate teachers fairly, right?

The bottom line to me is a question: Would making it easier to suspend students for "soft" offenses make our schools better? Clearly, nothing magical is happening to students when they are out of school. When they come back, why should we expect different behavior? If the school doesn't change and the student doesn't change, it's just going to happen again, isn't it? Does that situation help the "good" kids? I'm all for doing something to change the climate of a school where insolence and disruptions run rampant. I just don't see how throwing more kids out of school, as opposed to some sort of structured behavior plan, is going to help anyone.

@a parent - I realize you view education through the lens of someone with a special needs student. I get that. Overall statistics may show that special needs students are suspended more often, but my experience in the classroom is that it is not the special needs students who are causing the disruptions.

I don't think suspensions are the answer, but they do need to be part of the equation. The best principal I ever worked with used to say, "If a student disrespects you, I will not further disrespect you by forcing to to look at that student sitting in your classroom, looking back at you. S/he will be going home for 3 days." The beginning of the school year showed a spike in suspensions, but they quickly decreased and, overall, our suspensions went down. Our students quickly learned what they could and could not get away with. The classroom environment improved and teaching and learning was the focus, instead of constant behavior management.

Children look for boundaries. They keep pushing until they find them. If there are no boundaries, chaos follows. So, to answer your question, "Would making it easier to suspend students for "soft" offenses make our schools better?" Yes, it would make our schools better. It HAS made our schools better.

I'm with you, parent. Suspension should be a last resort, not a control technique.

The truth is that teachers and administration have almost zero training with behavior intervention and deescalation. We go straight to the punishment and believe that it will deter further poor behavior.

I think that suspension only creates resentful and distrusting students.

I think some are missing the point - I don't know any theacher who thinks that suspension will change behavior. I just need to get disruptive students out of my class so I am able to teach!! I don't care if they are in in-school suspension, home suspension or kicked out completely. The fact that they don't know how to act or treat adults with respect is beyond my control. I respect them, I have an engaging class, I understand the diverse cultures in my class .... blah blah blah!

I think this quote from Brandon nails it: "The behaviors that lead to suspensions are learned early on from home, and only a cultural/social revolution from within the black community will turn these behaviors (and the statistics) around."

Again - who is the advocate for compliant kids who are trying desperately trying to get an education, who value education and who have learned how to conduct themselves in a respectful manner.

I am a Towson Student and am in a class that deals with urban education. As an assignment I had to pick an article online that deals with urban schools and respond to questions.

Relation to class:
In class we discuss issues dealing with race in relation to urban schools. This article displays that more black students are suspended than white students. In class we have discussed the history of segregation and have seen how far education has come in dealing with race, but this report shows that races are still segregated. Also in class we relate crime to urban schools, which is shown in the report.

Relation to urban schools:
This article relates to urban school because the report was conducted on Baltimore City schools. In urban schools there is usually more crime, which is proven in the report since the main reasons for suspension were attacking an adult and weapon possession. Also in urban schools there are a lot of issues dealing with race due to the fact there is more minorities in city schools. This is also displayed in the report where it shows the huge difference between black and white suspensions

Reason for selection:
I selected this article because suspension has become a major issue within the school system. In today’s society many students act out and have no respect for teachers. Students feel as though they can do whatever they want and don’t have to listen to authority. Especially in city schools, weapon possession has become prevalent and a legitimate reason for suspension. Although it is good to try to find better alternatives of discipline for “soft offenses,” I still believe that students that are a disruption to the learning environment should be punished. If you don’t punish the student they will be given the mindset that they can do whatever they please and not get reprimanded for it. I think schools let students get away with a lot because they want their number of suspensions to be low, but then students who actually want to learn are paying the price. I have had several disruptive students in my classes who I wish would have been suspended because my teachers have had to waste a lot of class time dealing with them, which takes away from my learning. I also chose this article because it is sad to see that there are still huge gaps between minorities and non-minorities. For the percentage rate between black and white students to be so far apart is ridiculous. Education has come a long way, but it is disappointing to see there are still problems when dealing with race.

It's a shame that BCPS is allowing the children to run the schools. Teachers should not be afraid to send a disruptive student to school. How is a parent supposed to teach a class full of students (has nothing to do with having an IEP) who are cursing them out from the moment they walk in the room, being on the phone, yelling out in the hallway, coming into class late although they have been wandering the halls for most of the class period if not the entire day (except Lunch). What are teachers to do when they are told that there are rules that the school will not allow (not having uniform on, coming to class late, using cell phones..the list goes on) just to be told by a principal not to worry about it, let so and so sit down over there. Then you are telling the child that they do not have to follow the rules because if the principal lets them do what they want then how is any teacher supposed to be respected when their boss undermines a teacher in front of a student. As far as suspensions go, this has been a joke for quite a while since as stated previously, principals are afraid to take this step because that will put a bad mark on the school which then puts a bad mark on the Board of Ed. because the media is told one thing but so much more is going on in the schools. And just because more people were hired to help the principals run the schools better, they too (the few that have come to schools thus far) see all that so many have mentioned in this blog but ignore it, shake there and tsk, tsk as they look at teachers trying their best to teach those who do not want to be taught and who are being passed every year learning less and less, to go back to North Avenue and say "its no problem, its a good school, etc. When we as a society start making the parents of these undisciplined students become accountable by having to spend at least one day a month in the schools( there is a relative who does not work--for those of you ready to say that you should not have to miss a day of work) who instead of arguing with the school, and taking the word of your CHILD instead of the teacher, spend some time really seeing close up what is really going on in these schools. There is so much that I could write about this situation but it seems to fall on deaf ears that it hurts the heart to see that no one is listening. No one cares that there are 2-3 schools in a building, that our better schools are no longer here for those who want a better life (since any child can now go to any school even with a 60--which is the least you can give them), schools being shut down and more to come, lack of qualified teachers, lack of teachers period, 20-25 students in a class(if they all come), all of these issues come into play, they are not separate and must be dealt with together and statistics need to be put out there together to get to why our suspensions are higher than predicted over the last few years, just like the test scores and attendance. These children that we speak of are supposed to be our future. How many of our future children are reading 2 or more grades below where they are, cannot spell, punctuate etc. because we no longer have the time to teach them the basics let alone throw in a little bit of life their way while trying to get them to sit still for 90 minutes?

Well stated TowsonStudent and calamity - glad Towson isn't filling your head full of bs like they did when I was a student there. That fact of the matter is that every school has a number of 'red zone' kids that fail to respond to any type of intervention. The problem is a function of family support, skill deficiencies stemming back to elementary schools, inconsistent discipline policies year to year and class to class, and yes, in some cases, low teacher expectations.

If we want to fix the problem, we need to recognize that our comprehensive schools simply don't and can't work for every type of kid. Our alternative school option in BCPS is a joke. With the exception of the Crossroads school, these schools are a waste of resources. Once we recognize that a kid needs an alternative setting, they should STAY there. Many kids do well with the extra structure, support staff ...etc and then they are sent back to the comprehensive school only to meet with failure once again. Add a few permanent alternative settings around BCPS and I guarantee that a high percentage of red zone kids would meet with success.

Another solution is to expand vocational and technical options for kids starting in middle school. Come on folks - not all kids need to be on a college prep track that sets them up for frustration and failure. We need electricians, mechanics, plumbers, computer technicials ...etc. I have found that kids who struggle in the regular academic setting flourish when they can use their minds and their HANDS. They see the immediate connection between effort, skill and outcome. Learning this way requires kids to problem solve, use technology, collaborate and communicate - isn't that what we need in the 21st century anyway? We need to stop saying "Put them in AP classes and that will push them to achieve." No it doesn't, it simply causes AP teachers to lower the bar for the kids who could actually handle the rigor while dealing with added disruption.

Here are two viable solutions to the problem of suspensions that don't waste time placing blame - let's see if any of the "fools on the hill" at Greenwood give it some thought.

Real Teacher: Right on! The City Schools have NO idea what to do with the most disruptive students - but expanding "vocational and technical options for kids starting in middle school" is an outstanding idea.

I asked a more experienced teacher why there are so few options for our students, and she told me that the technical and vocational "colleges" have turned the teaching of those skills into a business.

Apparently it is too difficult (and costly?) now for public schools to offer such education.

Is anybody out there more in the know to elaborate?

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Hi there

Dealing with challenging behaviour in young people is a challenge and one that we all must deal with at some point in our lives. It is usually not personal but a method to deal with the way one is feeling.

Marcus

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