Suspensions in schools rise more than 50% in 2 years Largest increase is among elementary pupils

November 26, 1997|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

Suspensions of Howard County students grew by more than 50 percent from 1995 to 1997, according to school data released yesterday.

The largest increase was among elementary school students. In 1994-1995, officials issued 72 suspensions among the more than 16,500 elementary students; some students were suspended more than once. Two years later, that number grew about 110 percent, to 151 suspensions.

Middle school suspensions grew by 16 percent, from 983 to 1,138. The number of middle school girls suspended rose 65 percent, according to the information presented at a school board meeting yesterday.

Suspensions of high school students grew by 39 percent, from 1,000 to 1,390.

In the same period, expulsions increased at a similar rate, said James McGowan, associate superintendent of administrative services. No details were available.

The total school population rose about 7 percent between 1995 and 1997.

School officials did not have a full explanation for the increase.

"We had several incidents last year that resulted in multiple suspensions," McGowan said. "It's clear that, with the development of pseudo- or actual ganglike activity, we'll have to deal with this in ways we have not before."

Stephen C. Bounds, a school board member, said of the elementary school suspensions: "I'm wondering if we think that's a deteriorating behavior thing or an issue of increased enforcement."

School officials have instituted stricter discipline codes this year, including Saturday sessions in middle and high schools and a tough smoking policy that allows for expulsion after three offenses. An evening school for students placed on long-term suspension will be in place by February, school officials said.

Some of the changes come as part of Schools Superintendent Michael E. Hickey's Disruptive Youth Initiative, in which some $300,000 was set aside last year for programs aimed at curbing student misbehavior.

Officials suspend students for one to 90 days for such offenses as alcohol and drug possession, class disruptions and truancy.

Suspensions for assaults decreased among middle and high school students -- by 9 and 13 percent respectively -- but rose about 24 percent among elementary students. Thirty elementary students were suspended for assaults in 1994-1995 and 44 in 1996-1997.

Also at the school board meeting, a school official reported that moving daily school start times back 45 minutes could cost about $2.8 million in extra buses.

Because high school classes begin at 7: 30 a.m., some students rise before dawn, and many struggle to stay awake during

classes, some students and parents have said.

Pub Date: 11/26/97

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