Is the high drop-out rate among Baltimore city public school students being aggravated by school policies that, in effect, force the most troublesome youngsters out of the system prematurely?
That is the question posed in a recent report by Advocates for Children and Youth, a local youth advocacy group. Entitled "A City at Risk," the report contends that the school department's own suspension and expulsion policies exacerbate the problems of "at risk" youngsters and contribute to the myriad negative consequences of school failure -- unemployment, crime, broken families and reduced economic competitiveness.
The ACY studied school suspension and expulsion policies over an 18-month period, focusing on 18 students, ages 7 to 19, whose family background and previous school history put them at high risk of dropping out. It found that school authorities made little attempt to establish working relationships with the parents of such youngsters -- even when the parents themselves tried to initiate contact -- and that in-school counseling for such students was inadequate or non-existent. It also found that over the past 10 years, expulsions have increased 600 percent and that nearly 75 percent of suspensions statewide occur in Baltimore city.