This week I read the article titled "Hillsborough black students still expelled at higher rates, despite efforts to fix racial disparities." One thing that is alarmingly true is the fact that 58% of students recommended for expulsion are black, though they make up only 21% of the population. Reading that the overall number of students being expelled has steadily been reduced gives hope knowing that we are moving in the right direction.
As principal of Greco Middle School, I want to bring greater clarity to the statistics so readers better understand the numbers that were shared. No one can dispute data, however, disaggregated data will help everyone determine how to truly reduce the number of students being suspended from school and yield improved student behavior. Without disaggregated data, our efforts may not target the root cause of the problems.
It was published that Greco was one of the middle schools with the highest number of students (19) being recommended for placement in alternative schools. Digging deeper, it's important to note that 7 of the 19 students committed major criminal offenses OFF campus and with the exception of one, all occurred over the weekend. That leaves 12 students out of 850 (less than 2%) enrolled who were recommended for change in placements for incidents occurring ON campus. Of those 12, only 6 of those students were recommended for a change of placement as a result of continuous disruptive behaviors.
Schools have big responsibilities to educate children and we take this responsibility seriously. We have worked for years to reduce suspensions by helping students develop good character, motivating them whenever possible and helping teachers to not only develop wide ranges of intervention strategies but also build systems to better support students when they make mistakes. [Click here for a comparison, based on this year's teacher survey, between Greco and other high-needs middle schools]
At the end of the day, students will make mistakes and some mistakes are larger than others, resulting in more stern consequences. Many of us are parents and while we wake up each day praying that 100% of students will make the right choices, we are prepared when children act like children. As the article indicated, few students are expelled because as a district, we don't believe in kicking children out of school. On the other hand, we owe it to all students, in the case of Greco, that means the remaining 98% of our 850 students to protect their rights to a safe and orderly educational experience.
Our faculty and staff have worked together really hard to improve school culture. It takes time, commitment and hard work. Our parents and community have partnered with us. Together, we have seen a 64% reduction in disciplinary incidents over the past three years. We will continue to willingly serve and hope that every parent and community member will work collaboratively with us towards reaching Greco's new vision of "preparing students for lifelong success."
In the Land of the Lion Cubs,
Yinka Alege, Principal
Greco Middle School