Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Education

Failure Factories: Pinellas suspends black kids more than virtually every other big Florida county

Most large Florida school districts are moving away from suspending children for nonviolent misbehavior — part of a nationwide consensus that harsh discipline falls unfairly on black kids and leaves struggling students too far behind.

The Pinellas County School District is an outlier.

Its leaders say teachers and principals know best, and they should be free to suspend students as they see fit.

The result: Black children in Pinellas are suspended at rates seen in virtually no other large school district in Florida. They are regularly kicked out of class for vaguely defined infractions like "defiance," "excessive tardiness" and "electronic device."

The Tampa Bay Times analyzed a database of more than 600,000 punishments given to children in the district from 2010 to 2015. Then reporters interviewed leaders of the 20 largest school systems in Florida and examined state records to compare them with Pinellas. Among the findings:

• Pinellas County suspends black children at higher rates than the six other large school systems in Florida. Black students in Pinellas were 17 percent more likely to be suspended than blacks in Hillsborough, 41 percent more likely than blacks in Palm Beach and 85 percent more likely than blacks in Miami-Dade. They were six times more likely to be suspended than black children in Broward.

• More than half of the suspensions given to black students are not for the violent offenses detailed by the Times earlier in this series. They're not even for borderline cases. They're for hard-to-define infractions such as "not cooperating," "unauthorized location" and minor "class disruption."

• In five years, black students lost a combined 45,942 school days to suspensions for these and other minor offenses. White students, who outnumber black students 3 to 1, lost 28,665 days by comparison.

• Pinellas schools give out-of-school suspensions to black children disproportionately. They suspended blacks at four times the rate of other children based on their respective shares of the population. That's one of the widest disparities in the state. Sixty-three of Florida's other 66 school districts hand out suspensions more evenly among races.

• The School Board and district leaders have repeatedly rebuffed calls to adopt a discipline matrix, a tool that other districts use to make discipline more colorblind and to keep more kids in the classroom. Just two of the 20 largest school districts in Florida don't use a discipline matrix. One is Brevard, whose discipline practices are under investigation by the federal government. The other is Pinellas.

• Pinellas leaders also have stuck with policies that make it harder for suspended students to catch up. Pinellas doesn't staff in-school suspension sessions with certified teachers, as other districts do. It cut all funding for suspension centers where kids could do school work rather than stay home while being punished. And it prohibits suspended high school students from earning full credit for make-up work, a practice most other large districts have abandoned because it needlessly sets kids back.

Read the full story and see charts on Pinellas discipline.

Comments
Officers: When an active shooter attacks, survive by taking action

Officers: When an active shooter attacks, survive by taking action

LARGO — An Illinois teacher used confrontation. A campus safety monitor in Seattle attacked with pepper spray and physical force. An assistant football coach in Indiana shouted as he chased him into the woods.All were civilians who took down an activ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Under a new law, some public schools will be managed by companies. Pinellas is getting ready

Under a new law, some public schools will be managed by companies. Pinellas is getting ready

LARGO — Pinellas County School Board members are not happy about the prospect of having to hand over academic control at three struggling schools to a private company, and paying the firm up to $2 million on top of it. But that’s the course they must...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Lawsuit accuses FSU fraternity, national chapter of negligence in pledge’s death

Lawsuit accuses FSU fraternity, national chapter of negligence in pledge’s death

The parents of Andrew Coffey, the Florida State University student who died from alcohol poisoning after an apparent hazing episode last year, have sued the national Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity and nine of its members for their son’s death.Coffey, who wa...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Upset by grade, Robinson High student threatens to shoot up campus, police say

Upset by grade, Robinson High student threatens to shoot up campus, police say

Schools nationwide are on heightened alert in the wake of last week’s fatal shootings in Broward County, and in the Tampa area, that means official warnings about social media posts and more calls for police action.Two Tampa boys, one 15 and one 16, ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Schools, Tampa police warn against ‘misleading’ school security reports

Schools, Tampa police warn against ‘misleading’ school security reports

TAMPA — During a news conference Tuesday morning, Hillsborough Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins and Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan warned against misleading investigators with reports about school security."Spread the word," the school said in a t...
Published: 02/20/18
‘I would take a bullet for the kids’; Teachers struggle with life-and-death realities after school shooting

‘I would take a bullet for the kids’; Teachers struggle with life-and-death realities after school shooting

TAMARAC — The shooting was all over, but the emotional reckoning had just begun, and so on Saturday the teachers of Broward County in Florida packed their union hall to discuss what it meant to have become the nation’s human shields."Last night I tol...
Published: 02/20/18
Today: Senate to put its own stamp on Florida education proposals

Today: Senate to put its own stamp on Florida education proposals

The massive education measure known as House Bill 7055 has received plenty of attention during the legislative session, with its emphasis on decertifying teachers’ unions and using state-backed scholarship programs to steer kids away from public scho...
Published: 02/20/18

Pasco sixth-graders might get to play school sports

Pasco County middle schools are making plans to allow sixth-graders to participate on sports teams next year for the first time.District athletic director Matt Wicks plans to bring a policy revision proposal to the School Board in the next few months...
Published: 02/20/18

Pasco School News for Feb. 23

Calendar• March 15: End of third grading quarter.• March 16: Teacher planning day. No school for students.• March 17-25: Spring break.Theatre/Art/MusicCenter for the Arts at River Ridge, 11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey. (727) 774-7382.• River...
Published: 02/20/18
Pasco sensory room a comforting resource for students with autism

Pasco sensory room a comforting resource for students with autism

LAND O’LAKES — For a kid with autism, the bus ride to school can be really tough. So can the trek down a crowded school hallway, never mind the din of the cafeteria. Even a lesson that feels too long can trigger a roadblock to learning. For students ...
Published: 02/20/18