Let’s not get hung up on the way student suspensions are recorded in Youngstown and Warren. The eye-opening fact is that the thousands of incidents of misbehavior during the 2010-2011 school year show why the urban school districts are struggling academically.
Disruptions in the classrooms or the school buildings are an impediment to learning.
Youngstown and Warren residents aren’t interested in excuses, such as this one from Aaron Schwab, a spokesman for the Warren City Schools: “As far as an apples to apples comparison of school districts, I don’t think there is one. Every school district has a different policy on discipline and how it’s handled.”
Is Schwab suggesting that some districts with comparatively low student suspension rates are being less forthright about disruptions in their schools than those with high rates?
As a comparison to what is taking place in Youngstown and Warren, consider two academically successful districts, Boardman and Austintown. In Boardman, there were 88 out-of-school suspensions in the 2010-2011 school year; Austintown reported 50 out-of-school suspensions and 12 in-school suspensions.
For the 2010-2011 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 Ohio Department of Education website. Another 44 occurrences resulted in emergency removal of the students.
In Warren, there were 2,647 out-of-school suspensions in 2010-2011, 4,972 in-school suspensions and 14 emergency removals.
The most common discipline issue reported in both districts was disobedient or disruptive behavior.
Warren’s numbers are higher because they reflect a per-incident count, which means that one student could have been suspended more than once.
In addition, if a student gets a three-day suspension, the district reports it as three incidents.
By contrast, Youngstown reports a three-day suspension as one incident.
But as we said at the outset, the details of the how the numbers are reported are less important than what they represent: Dysfunctional students who are contributing to the failure of the districts.
Thus the question: What should be done with the repeat offenders? Given the academic challenges confronting the districts, the superintendents and boards of education have their hands full and cannot afford to be distracted by students who have little interest in learning.
Ohio Department of Education officials should be asked to come in to assess the situation, with the goal of developing a program that would remove the disruptive and disobedient students from the schools.
Permitting them to return to the classrooms after they have served their suspensions should be a one-time proposition. The next incident should result in removal from school.
There is a widely held belief that urban school districts across the country are failing because of a lack of discipline in the classrooms.
Youngstown schools Superintendent Dr. Connie Hathorn has acknowledged that some parents have pulled their children out of the district because they’re concerned about safety.
Something must be done to reduce the high number of suspensions.