Schools suspend more in 1997-98 Number increases by 800 overall, officials say

Fewer in middle school

Student population rises at same time, report to board says

September 11, 1998|By Erika D. Peterman | Erika D. Peterman,SUN STAFF

Almost 800 more students in Howard County were suspended during the 1997-1998 school year than in the previous year, with the number of incidents increasing at every level except middle school, according to a report presented to the school board last night.

The report said 2,624 students were suspended last year, compared with 1,857 during the 1996-1997 school year. There were 1,748 students suspended in 1995-96, the report said.

The majority of the incidents continue to occur in the high schools and involve boys, the report said. Middle school suspensions were down to 1,089 last year from 1,138 previously, but the number of students involved increased from 775 to 943 in that time frame, the report said.

Figures were unavailable for earlier school years, but 274 students were referred to the superintendent's office last year for reviews of principals' requests for extensions of suspensions, the report said. Of those students, 37 were expelled.

Despite those increases, board members pointed out that the overall percentage of students being suspended in Howard County remains low compared with other Maryland school districts.

"Ours were really lowest or next to lowest in the state," said board Chairman Stephen Bounds. "That doesn't mean we don't want to improve."

The county's student population has increased from 37,493 in 1995 to 40,186 this year, and that may explain why the number of suspensions have increased, said schools spokeswoman Patti Caplan.

Caplan also said the increase in suspensions may have resulted from strong enforcement of discipline policies.

"What it can mean is that you're really cracking down on kids who are misbehaving," Caplan said.

School officials expressed particular concern about the increase suspensions in elementary schools. There were 258 elementary students involved in 292 suspension incidents last year, compared with 122 students and 151 incidents during the 1996-1997 school year, the report said.

While most of the school system's disruptive-youth initiatives have focused on middle and high school students, it may be time to create programs for the system's youngest children, said Eugene Streagle, instructional coordinator in charge of high schools.

"We really should address these behaviors when the kids are 8, 9 and 10, before they get to middle school," said board member Linda L. Johnston.

In a separate report, school officials outlined their proposal for an alternative learning center" that would house four programs targeting students with behavioral and emotional problems.

The center would include:

An expanded Gateway School, which serves about 100 middle and high school students who were "extremely disruptive" in their regular schools.

The Bridges Program for children served by the Howard County Extension Program for Students with Emotional Disturbance at Taylor Manor.

The Alternative Setting for Students with Emotional Problems ASSEP) program for "emotionally fragile" students who may suffer from depression, eating disorders and obsessive-compulsive behavior.

The Passages Program, a restrictive environment for the school system's most troubled students.

Under the proposal, the expanded Gateway school would serve up to 150 students; Bridges, 45-60; ASSEP, 30-45; and Passages, a maximum of 20.

School staff members hope to have the programs functioning by August 2000, with a proposed operating staff budget of about $3.7 million.

Also at last night's meeting:

The board voted to provide a weighted class rank option for the class of 2000 instead of the 1999 graduating class. Superintendent Michael E. Hickey said high school guidance counselors would not have enough time to make the necessary changes in school records unless they put all other work aside.

"They've indicated a real sense of panic about having to do this because this is a very busy time for them," Hickey said.

The board voted recently to give high school seniors a weighted class ranking option, which would give students extra "quality points" for excelling in advanced-level courses.

The weighted rank would be used only for college admission and scholarship application purposes.


Students suspended in Howard County

Grade .. .. .. ..'95-96 .. .. ..'96-97.. .. .. ..'97-98

Elementary.. .. ... 73 . .. .. .. 122 .. .. .. .. . 258

Middle .. .. .. .. 753 .. .. .. . 775 .. .. .. .. . 943

High .. .. .. .. . 922 .. .. .. . 960 .. .. .. .. 1,423

Total .. .. .. . 1,748 .. .. .. 1,857 .. .. .. .. 2,624

Source: Howard County School System.

Pub Date: 9/11/98

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