Student expulsions decrease

But report also shows fewer children felt safe in their classrooms

November 20, 2005|By ANICA BUTLER | ANICA BUTLER,SUN REPORTER

A report on student discipline released by Anne Arundel County school officials shows that the number of students expelled fell more than 13 percent from the 2003-2004 school year to last year.

According to the report, issued last week, 391 students were expelled in the 2004-2005 school year, down from the 451 expelled in 2003-2004.

Also, fewer major disciplinary offenses were reported.

However, in a poll of seventh- and 11th-graders last school year, fewer said they felt safe in their classrooms compared with the previous year. The poll results, released in July, showed that 83 percent of students overall said they felt safe, down from 89 percent the previous year. Among 11th-graders, only 74 percent said they felt safe, down from 82 percent.

Jose Torres, assistant superintendent for student support services, said the expulsion numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt. A decrease in expulsions could mean that more students are behaving, or it could mean that school administrators aren't enforcing the rules, he said. He added that he believes the former is occurring, but that the data need to further study.

"I'm expecting that, in fact, schools are implementing the code of conduct; I believe that's the case," he said.

One topic that school officials are analyzing is the disparity between the number of black and white students who were expelled.

Black students made up nearly half of those expelled in 2004-2005, though they represent only about 22 percent of the school system's total population. The number of black students expelled during the 2004-2005 school year dropped 19 percent from the previous year, more than the decrease in white students who were expelled, Torres pointed out.

"It's a difficult [issue] to address," Torres said. He added that he plans to distill the data to look at the numbers of black students expelled from each school and for what offenses.

According to the report, assaults against other students and teachers topped the list of offenses committed by students, followed by incidents of students carrying weapons. The third-most-frequent offense resulting in expulsions was the use of drugs or alcohol.

Torres noted a clarified student code of conduct and a program that rewards middle and high school students at some schools for positive behavior as contributing to the decrease in offenses.

Just as the annual Student Discipline Report was being released, a few school board members said they would like to revisit the safety and security policies in the school system after several high-profile incidents during the first few months of the current school year.

In one instance, a high school principal was taken to the hospital last month after being punched in the head by a student. Also in October, a shooting occurred outside an Annapolis High School football game.

Police determined that neither the suspected shooter nor the victim, who was hit in the thigh, was connected with the high school. A 17-year-old boy was charged with reckless endangerment after police determined that the youth accidentally pulled the trigger of the handgun in his pocket.

As a result of the shooting, all varsity football games will start earlier, at 5:15 p.m. The administration also pledged to increase police supervision and stop selling tickets after halftime. A school board member also suggested that the district consider metal detectors at football games if there are more problems this year.

anica.butler@baltsun.com

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