Drop In School Suspensions Gets An A

January 30, 1991|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — The number of students suspended for various infractions at Carroll's five high schools in 1989-1990 is down 32 percent from the year before, and educators attribute the fall to the Saturday School and other programs.

Total suspensions for all Carroll high school students dropped from 1,916 during the 1988-1989 school year to 1,348 in 1989-1990, said Edwin Davis, director of pupil services and special programs.

Reasons for suspensions include truancy, class-cutting, fighting, smoking, drug and alcohol possession, and insubordination.

Educators credited declines in three categories -- truancy, smoking, and drug and alcohol use -- to the Saturday School, an alternative to out-of-school suspension, and various school and community programs aimed at helping kids with substance-addiction problems.

A spinoffof the drop in suspensions has been an increase in daily attendance.Davis said the average daily attendance for the 1989-1990 school year was 94.1 percent -- the county's best rate in the past decade, but still below the 96 percent rate the state has set for model schools.

"By addressing some of these problems, we've helped the attendancerate," Davis said. "We're not just helping the attendance rate, we're helping kids who may have problems and may be doing only marginallywell in school."

Various drug education, prevention and treatmentprograms, both in the school system and the community, have helped drug- and alcohol-related suspensions drop from an average of 250 a year to 35.

The other areas -- smoking and truancy -- have been abetted by the Saturday School program, which was initiated for truant students in 1988. Since then, the number of suspensions for truancy hasdropped from 165 to 124. In other truancy-related cases, suspensionsfor class-cutting have dropped from 141 to 57 and for tardiness from37 to 20 during the same period.

The program was expanded to include students smokers a year ago. Since then, the number of students suspended for smoking and tobacco-related infractions has dropped by 64 percent from 293 in 1988-1989 to 100 in 1989-1990.

"It's been a very successful program," said Gregory C. Eckles, North Carroll High School principal. "We feel that the best thing we can do is to havethe kids in school. You can't teach them anything if they're not there."

Typically, instead of receiving a three-day suspension for afirst-time smoking offense, students are diverted to the Saturday program, which meets on a designated Saturday at the Carroll County Vocational-Technical Centers.

Students are required to attend the session, which meets from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. During that time, students have to complete a series of written exercises aimed at modifying their behavior. Any remaining times must be used for school work.

The students, of course, are supervised by educators during the session and are placed in assigned seats. There is only one 15-minute break during the session. Students and their parents are required to provide transportation.

Because of the program's success, educators are considering expanding the alternative suspension programs to include disruptive behavior, such as fighting, insubordination and related infractions. School officials said the program could begin next fall.

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