By Denise Dick
Ohio Department of Education records show high numbers of student suspensions in the Mahoning Valley’s two largest school districts.
For the 2010-11 school year, the most recent data available, the Youngstown district reported 2,302 discipline occurrences that resulted in out-of-school suspensions, and 302 occurrences for which students got in-school suspension, according to the ODE website.
An additional 44 occurrences resulted in emergency removal of the student.
Disobedient or disruptive behavior was the most common reason for discipline.
The district, which numbered 6,088 students that year, was 67 percent black, 17 percent white and 10 percent Hispanic students. Ninety-two percent of the students are economically disadvantaged.
Warren saw 2,647 out-of-school suspensions in 2010-2011, 4,972 in-school suspensions and 14 emergency removals.
As in Youngstown, the most common discipline issue reported was disobedient or disruptive behavior.
The Warren district with 5,368 students was 46 percent white, 41 percent black, 2 percent Hispanic and 75 percent economically disadvantaged in 2010-11.
All of the discipline numbers are per incident, meaning that one student could have been suspended more than once.
Aaron Schwab, a spokesman for Warren City Schools, says his district’s suspension and discipline numbers look high because of the way the district reports them.
“If a student gets a three-day suspension, we report that as three incidents,” he said.
Youngstown reports a three-day out of school suspension as one incident, Karen Ingraham, that district’s spokeswoman said.
“As far as an apples-to- apples comparison of school districts, I don’t think there is one,” Schwab said. “Every school district has a different policy on discipline and how it’s handled.”
By comparison, Boardman and Austintown school districts reported 88 and 50 out-of-school suspensions, respectively, in the 2010-11 school year, according to the state. Austintown also reported 12 in-school suspensions that year.
At a school board meeting last month, Marcia Haire-Ellis, a Youngstown school board member, recommended a resolution at a future meeting to replace out-of-school suspensions with an alternative. Though she didn’t identify an alternative, she referred to an organization that advocates in-school suspensions as an option.
The higher number of black and Latino students suspended compared with white students was a discussion topic at a Council of Urban Boards of Education conference last month in Atlanta attended by some board members.
Youngstown Superintendent Connie Hathorn said some of city schools offer in-school suspension, where students are removed from class but remain in the school building.
If students behave inappropriately, they have to be removed from class or they disrupt learning for other students, he said.
“What we need to look at is what’s causing them to misbehave,” Hathorn said.
For both Warren and Youngstown, students’ ninth-grade year sees the most discipline.
Youngstown’s ninth-graders are housed in a separate wing at East High School and learn in pods to foster a small-school environment to try to address those younger students’ needs. The same teachers instruct those students for two years in an effort to create a family-like relationship.