High School Suspensions Up As Alternatives Don't Catch On

Board To Review Report On In-school Options

September 11, 1991|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff writer

More students drew more suspensions from county high schools last year than in either of the two previous school years, despite school officials' efforts to use alternatives that will keep students at theirbooks.

A report that traces high school suspensions for the last three school years shows that the effort to substitute in-school alternatives "is not working," said Dana F. Hanna, school board vice chairman. "(The report) addresses the fact that we are not achieving the goal, so we've got to deal with it more intensely."

At the high schools, 664 students drew 885 suspensions in 1990-1991. In the previous year, 593 students were suspended for 754 infractions, and in 1988-89, 610 students were suspended for 691 infractions.

School board members are scheduled to consider the report on suspensions at tomorrow's meeting. The board will also receive reports on suspensions in elementary and middle schools. But comparative numbers for the last several years are unavailable because in the past, the statistics were not compiled separately for elementary and middle school pupils.

Hanna said he didn't want to imply that the solutionis to allowstudents to get away with problem behavior. Instead, he would like to see emphasis on alternatives, pos

sibly expansion of the Alternative Learning Program. Students spend one to three periodsa day in the ALPS classrooms, working on functional math, reading, writing, citizenship studies and skills they will need in the working world.

The ALPS program, currently operating only at Hammond and Howard high schools, had 67 enrollees in 1990-1991, about the same number as in the previous school year. The report stated that 84 percentof the ALPS students improved their school attendance last year and that 87 percent passed the Maryland functional tests required for graduation.

Referrals to Saturday School, a Saturday morning program where students are usually assigned for offenses such as cutting class or skipping school, dropped from 860 to 730 between 1989-1990 and 1990-1991. Daniel L. Jett, director of high schools, could not be reached for comment on the reason for the decrease.

Suspensions for drug use or possession -- 55 in the last school year -- made up only a small percentage of the total and has declined over the last three years.

Fighting and behavior (a category that includes vandalism) accounted for most of the suspensions, and both causes showed increasesfrom the previous year.

In county middle schools, 225 youths weresuspended in 336 incidents last year. Alice W. Haskins, director of middle schools, said that although she didn't have a breakdown of past totals, her sense of the situation is that suspensions were probably higher in 1990-1991.

One of the difficulties in middle

schoolis managing in-school suspensions, Haskins said.

"There's no place in a middle school building to keep them (suspended students) unless you sit them outside your office," she said.

Haskins said middleschools do not have the additional staff to supervise programs, likethe high school's "contract rooms," where misbehaving students spendthe day studying, isolated from their classmates.

In elementary schools, 42 pupils were suspended last year for 96 violations.

ON THE AGENDA

The Howard County Board of Education will meet at 4 p.m. tomorrow in the board room. On the agenda:

* Financial reports: school construction fund

* Staff personnel

* Drug-free schools grant

* Suspension reports -- elementary, middle and high schools

*School system goals for 1991/1992

* Executive session

The Columbia Council will meet at 8 p.m. tomorrow at Slayton House. On the agenda:

* Presentation on New Town Zones by Al Scavo

* Goals, objectives and policies document

* Report on Columbia Association's lakes crews

* Chairman's report and action item review

* Public comments

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