Janesville School District: Expulsions are on the decline
The school board last week voted to expel just the 10th student this year. Compare that with the all-time record—58 expulsions in 2005-06.
The middle school student was expelled for possessing marijuana on school grounds, one of the most common expulsion offenses. He or she is expelled through the end of the upcoming fall semester.
The student could return to school in the fall, however, if he or she gets treatment and complies with a list of conditions, including submitting to searches and urine analysis whenever school officials or police ask.
When asked in recent years about the decline in expulsions, officials pointed to an effort to sidetrack students to the "pre-expulsion process."
A pre-expulsion is a last chance and involves officials getting together to construct a plan to get the student back on track.
That process is still in place, but a new discipline program the district has been phasing in is making a big difference, said Yolanda Cargile, director of at-risk and multicultural programs.
The program is called PBIS, for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. It takes great pains to explain exactly how students are expected to behave, Cargile said.
"It's not assumed that kids know, so you take the time to review, review, review," she said.
Eliminating misunderstandings between teachers and students is another aspect of the program. Teachers are trained to be consistent in their approach, Cargile said.
While expulsions have decreased, suspensions have not—at least through 2009-10, according to state data.
Statistics show the 12-year low for suspensions was 4.74 percent in 2006-07. Suspensions climbed back up to 6.34 percent in 2009-10.
Statistics also show Janesville boys account for the most suspensions and expulsions. Black students also are expelled at the highest rates.
The expulsion rate for Janesville black students ranged as high as 2.7 percent since 2005-06 but dropped to 0.7 percent in 2009-10, state data show.
White students during the same period showed expulsion rates as high as 0.4 percent, dropping off to 0.2 percent in 2009-10.
Expulsions of Hispanic students also have dropped, from a high of 1.3 percent in 2005-06. In recent years, Hispanic expulsions dropped so low the state does not report them to protect "student privacy."
Cargile said district officials make special efforts to work with minority students to overcome cultural misunderstandings that can lead to problems.
Discussion groups for black youths often address difficulties students have had with teachers, Cargile said. Students will complain they were treated unfairly or were not understood.
Group leaders steer those conversations to thinking about how students could have handled the situations better, Cargile said.
Efforts also are made to help staff better understand cultural differences.