District officials give credit to intervention programs

LANCASTER — Antelope Valley Union High School District’s suspension and expulsion rates have decreased over the past several years and continue to drop.

Since the 2010-11 school year the District’s suspension rate decreased 47% and the expulsion rate decreased 79%.

For the 2017-18 school year, 2,255 students out of a cumulative enrollment of 25,491 were suspended at least one time. The District’s total number of suspensions for the school year was 3,691, which includes students who were suspended more than once, according to the California Department of Education data.

Cumulative enrollment includes the total number of unduplicated primary and short-term enrollments within the academic year, regardless of whether the student is enrolled multiple times within a school or district.

That means a student enrolled for two days in the District would count in the District’s cumulative enrollment, which is higher than the actual enrollment.

For example, the District’s total enrollment for the 2017-18 school year was 22,726, according to California Department of Education data.

The three largest races or ethnicities were a cumulative enrollment of 15,815 Hispanic students; 4,553 African American students, and 3,238 white students.

Among African American students, 850 students were suspended, of whom 58.6% were suspended at least once. Among Hispanic or Latino students, 1,083 were suspended, of whom 73.7% were suspended at least once. Approximately 164 white students were suspended, of whom 72.6% were suspended at least once.

“We have seen our discipline decrease over the past number of years because we have put intervention programs in place to address the unique needs of our students,” a District official said.

State Education Code Section 48900 governs how a school district can suspend a student.

The mandatory recommendation to suspend or expel a student is for inappropriate behavior that includes whether the student caused, attempted to cause, or threatened to cause physical injury to another person; or willfully used force or violence upon the person of another, except in self-defense.

Other behaviors that could lead to a possible suspension include caused or attempted to cause damage to school property or private property; stole or attempted to steal school property or private property; or committed an obscene act or engaged in habitual profanity or vulgarity.

Before a student is suspended a first time, the school must show other means of correction, unless the student is a danger to themselves or to others.

The District developed a discipline matrix that created a hierarchy based on Ed Code that rates higher level offenses and minor offenses. Based on that, school administrators can determine what level of intervention as well as what level of consequence is appropriate for the situation.

“I think that overall we’ve had a huge culture shift in terms of how we facilitate in our disciplinary practices and we’ve made some tremendous progress in that area in terms of discipline,” a District official said.

The District has students who come to them with significant and unique challenges.

“Our goal is to address those unique challenges because they have unique challenges at home. Kids are kids; they cannot turn off whatever issue they are experiencing outside of school when they come to school,” a District official said, adding the goal is to create a more nurturing environment.

The District hired four social workers to help address the social and emotional needs of students. District administrators are also looking at social and emotional curriculum as part of the student support centers.

“Suspensions are the last resort … but we have to look at each case on an individual basis,” a District official said.

Students who are suspended on campus go to a Student Support Center. Teachers who expressed interest in working with at-risk students serve as coordinators at the support centers. The support centers also have nurses, social workers, psychologists, counselors, and community attendance workers.

“When a student has to be removed from class they are placed in an environment where their social and emotional needs are met,” a District official said. The goal is addressing it and getting them back in the classroom.”

With all of these support programs in place the District has seen suspensions drop 13% from 2017-18 to 2018-19, and expulsions drop 31% from the same time frame.

“The things that our kids are getting in trouble for we’re trying to find supports to help them learn from those mistakes so it doesn’t continue to happen,” another District official said.

Parents also have a right to appeal a suspension or expulsion at any time. If granted, the appeal would remove the discipline from the student’s school record.


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