Saturday, June 23, 2018
Education

Hillsborough School Board takes on discipline of minorities

TAMPA — The students who gathered for interviews at Middleton High School on a Saturday included some tough kids and some not-so-tough, all African-American and male.

Their answers surprised the panel of Hillsborough County school district officials, as well as School Board member Doretha Edgecomb, who attended the event. More than a third had positive role models. Half described strong parental support.

And those who didn't have either said the most important people in their lives were teachers.

"That perhaps puts a burden on the teachers, but it also says that kids really look up to those who teach," Edgecomb said during a board workshop Tuesday. "If teachers don't know how valued they are, I think this is an indication, and kids said it themselves."

District officials, led by assistant superintendent Lewis Brinson, are studying an issue that is commonly recognized across the nation: The disproportionate number of student discipline cases that involve African-American males.

Black students account for 21 percent of Hillsborough's population. But of all discipline incidents in 2011-12, 44 percent involved black students. And two-thirds involved males.

When in-school suspensions were measured, 40 percent involved blacks. And male students were almost twice as likely to be suspended as females.

Across the board, no matter how the data was analyzed, black male students were represented more heavily than their white or Hispanic counterparts.

"We have children that are being excluded from school, which results in loss of instructional time," Brinson said. "This is not something that anyone is proud of."

And, according to one graphic measuring middle school students who are transferred out of their schools over conduct issues, the gap is widening over time.

Everyone around the table — including the principals of several high schools — agreed the issue requires more study and will not be fixed easily.

There were, however, some suggestions, and lessons learned in the research.

Brinson said the vast majority of discipline cases involve nonviolent offenses, such as tardiness, skipping class, disobedience and the catch-all, "inappropriate behavior."

That means teachers and administrators often have latitude. They might correct the behavior. Or, instead of an out-of-school suspension, they can suspend the student in-school. "They're still not in front of their teacher," Brinson said. "But it's better than being out of school on suspension."

Edgecomb said, "we have to be more aggressive about recruiting male teachers in our schools, and especially men of color."

She and others on the board agreed the district should place a greater emphasis on relationships between students and teachers, which must be established ahead of the emphasis on academics.

School Board member Candy Olson said the issue needs a lot more study, even if the district needs to hire a consultant. "A lot of our students who come to school don't even know what inappropriate behavior is," she said. "We can't even agree on it."

Nor are teachers trained to teach behavior, as they teach math or reading, she said. "Our whole behavioral side is not written until you get in trouble, and you get punished for it."

For now, Brinson wants all principals to examine their discipline data, look for trends and update their school discipline plans frequently.

And the group agreed to hold more workshops. "This can't be a one-time conversation," Edgecomb said.

Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or [email protected]

Comments
First step for Hillsborough schools facing biggest challenges: Hire more teachers

First step for Hillsborough schools facing biggest challenges: Hire more teachers

TAMPA — As chief of diversity for the Hillsborough County School District, Minerva Spanner-Morrow tries to keep her expectations realistic."We want the best of the best and I know that’s very difficult," she told principals last week as they prepared...
Published: 06/23/18
Hernando school officials set to discuss replacement, sever ties after firing Superintendent Lori Romano

Hernando school officials set to discuss replacement, sever ties after firing Superintendent Lori Romano

BROOKSVILLE — With dust still settling from the Hernando County School Board’s close vote to fire Superintendent Lori Romano — and days before her time as head of the district runs out — school officials and community members seem to be already movin...
Published: 06/20/18
Hernando students score slightly better on state tests

Hernando students score slightly better on state tests

BROOKSVILLE — As schools and districts across the state await their 2018 grades from the Florida Department of Education, the standardized test scores that factor into those ratings and were dropped last week show slight gains in Hernando County.The ...
Published: 06/20/18
Budget analysis projects deficit, deepened by security costs, for Pasco schools in coming year

Budget analysis projects deficit, deepened by security costs, for Pasco schools in coming year

An early analysis of the Pasco County School District’s 2018-2019 budget projects a deficit of more than a million dollars, with more than half of that coming from a shortfall in funding new school safety requirements.Costs to hire and train 53 new s...
Published: 06/20/18
New dorm still coming to USF St. Petersburg, but in a smaller package

New dorm still coming to USF St. Petersburg, but in a smaller package

ST. PETERSBURG — Originally pitched as a nine- or 10-story, 550-bed dorm for the overcrowded University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus, USF’s latest residence hall project will likely look much different by the time it’s done.For starters, it...
Published: 06/20/18
Carlton: From Sun Dome to Beer Stadium: Don’t let suds scare you

Carlton: From Sun Dome to Beer Stadium: Don’t let suds scare you

Am I missing something in the — pardon the expression — brouhaha over the renaming of the University of South Florida Sun Dome to the Yuengling Center? In trading a college arena’s longtime name for that of a big-name beer brewed ne...
Published: 06/20/18

Hillsborough school district will pursue two kinds of local taxes

TAMPA — Hillsborough County School District officials took an important step Tuesday toward asking the voters to pay higher taxes for schools that, they say, are not getting enough money from the state.The board voted 5-0 to submit a tax referendum r...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/20/18
STEM camp beats the summer doldrums for some Pasco students

STEM camp beats the summer doldrums for some Pasco students

DADE CITY —Just a few weeks into summer vacation, Pasco Middle School student Jade Neal, 14, was back at school, delving into a challenging STEM activity on force in motion, as the theme to Mission Impossible played in the background.The assignment? ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Editor’s note: Ethan Hooper wrote today’s column to give Ernest Hooper Father’s Day off.In May, I graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in elementary education, and I recently secured a job as a first-grade teacher with Orang...
Published: 06/18/18
AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

Since 2002, the AP World History course has covered thousands of years of human activity around the planet, starting 10,000 years back. But now the College Board, which owns the Advanced Placement program, wants to cut out most of that history and st...
Published: 06/16/18