Pinellas district officials ease up on discipline
Pinellas County school officials have been under pressure to ease up when it comes to discipline, especially after a Times investigation found that black students can be suspended for almost anything.
Area superintendents met at Monday's school board workshop to propose a few changes in practice and in code.
Among the changes in practice, which are currently being piloted by schools in north Pinellas County:
- No student should be given an in-school or out-of-school suspension for more than three days without permission from area superintendent per each incident.
- A student shall be given no more than 10 days of cumulative in-school or out-of-school suspension per semester without permission from the area superintendent.
There may also be no out-of-school suspensions given for these six offenses, which the area offices are monitoring: excessive tardies, missed detentions or missed Saturday school, cell phones and electronic devices, leaving school grounds without permission, skipping class or school or being in an unauthorized location. Officials said the area offices will monitor data entries of these offenses.
Area superintendent Ward Kennedy, who supervises schools in Palm Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Dunedin and East Lake, said there has been an 18 percent reduction of referrals overall this school year, and 19 percent of that reduction was seen among black students. There was also a 13.2 percent decline in out-of-school suspensions for black students.
Kennedy also shared that arrests are down 44.8 percent from 2012 to the end of the 2014-15 school year. With a push toward civil citations, a more lenient discipline measure, Kennedy reported that 86 percent of first time offenders received civil citations, and 88 percent of black students received a civil citation for their first offense.
Kennedy vowed to ensure that oversight is consistent to make sure all of the schools are following the same standards. There is a larger emphasis on monitoring discipline data, he said.
Area superintendents also sought approval from the school board to change a code regarding make-up work for all absences: excused, unexcused or suspension. The revised code allows for students to make up work for full credit and without a grade penalty, so that students who are suspended and make up their work will not have their grades affected.
The school board seemed favorable to the changes, and will be considered for approval at a later date.