Schools continue to address suspension rates

Jan. 10, 2014 @ 07:02 PM

While President Obama is calling for school systems to relax tough zero-tolerance policies, Guilford County Schools officials say they’re already ahead of the curve.
The Obama administration this week urged education leaders to abandon what civil rights activists say are overly zealous discipline policies that frequently discriminate against minority students.
In 2011-12, Guilford County Schools formed a project team to look at the disparity between suspensions of minority students and their white counterparts.
The next year, the school system chose three pilot schools — Parkview Elementary, Ferndale Middle and High Point Central — to try to bring suspension rates down, especially among African-American males.
High Point Central Principal Bob Christina said being a pilot school has been beneficial for his staff, students and the county.
“We’ve created a reflection room where different staff members work with students that have been sent out of class,” he said. “It gives kids a chance to look at different ways to change their behavior. Kids can’t learn if they aren’t in school, and this has been a big transformation for our school.”
Christina said the reflection room also gives students a chance to meet several paraprofessionals that can continue to mentor them.
“It requires teachers to work with students in a different way,” he said. “The collaborative faculty effort has been tremendous. It’s changed our school’s culture.”
The first year of the program, the three pilot schools reduced the number of lost instructional days by 49 percent. In 2011-12, there were 249 suspensions at High Point Central. In 2012-13, there were 157, a reduction of 36 percent.
The district exceeded its expectations for the first year of the program, but Superintended Mo Green said there’s more to be done.
“GCS chose to face the problem head on and do our best to learn what is causing the imbalance, as well as what we can do to end it,” Green said. “Our pilot program showed significant success after just one year using these new strategies, but we know our work is not done. We will continue working to address disparate discipline outcomes in these pilot schools and across GCS.”
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