School board to discuss alternatives to suspensions

Oct. 28, 2013 @ 06:13 PM

Alternatives to school suspensions will be the focus Tuesday of a staff presentation made to the school board’s Support Services Committee.

Suspensions of black and Hispanic students and those with disabilities have been a major topic of conversation in recent months in response to a federal complaint filed against the school district on behalf of a middle school student with a disability who was suspended for a total of 34 school days during the 2012-13 school year and received no educational services during the suspension.

Tuesday’s staff report will highlight programs such as the Second Chance Academy, which started out as a small pilot program about three years ago but has been expanded to serve 18 to 54 middle school students in lieu of short-term suspensions.

“The pilot was so successful and the feedback from parents has been so positive, that we have extended the program,” said Debbie Pitman, assistant superintendent for students, family and community services.

Housed at W.G. Pearson Magnet Middle School on Umstead Street, the Second Chance Academy is an alternative to serving short-term suspensions, which are suspensions that last anywhere from one to 10 days.

Students receive credit for attending and teachers from base schools send work for students to complete so they do not fall behind in their studies.

Open to students with behavioral disorders, the program includes a socio-emotional component to address those needs.

Pitman said DPS has been “working hard” the past seven years to get its suspension problem under control, and that developing and implementing strategies to combat the problem is a part of the school district’s Strategic Plan.

“This pilot grew out of that work,” Pitman said.

DPS also recently announced the creation of new short-term suspension intervention program to provide educational services for students with disabilities serving short-term suspensions. 

That program will be housed at Lakeview School on Dearborn Drive.

Statics show black students at DPS, who made up 51.34 percent of enrolled students in 2012, were suspended 78.43 percent of the time. Hispanic students, representing 22.33 percent of the student population, accounted for 13.28 percent of the suspensions.

Meanwhile white students, 20.65 percent of enrolled students, were suspended only 5.26 percent of the time.