Middle School Suspension Rate Of Concern To District Officials

Source: Board of Education.

Approximately 18 percent of Franklin Middle School students –  nearly one-in-five – were suspended from school in the 2022-23 school year, a reality that concerns district officials.

That number is dramatically higher than the suspension rates at the district’s elementary and high schools, which are .8 percent and 6 percent, respectively.

Suspension rates in township schools were just some of the data shared with Board of Education members at the Board’s October 19 meeting.

Orvyl Wilson, the District’s Director for School Management and Student Advocacy, presented the information during his state-mandate annual report on the Student Safety Data System for the 2022-23 school year.

Speaking of the high suspension rate in the Middle School campuses, Wilson said, “We are very concerned about that and we are looking at what the causes might be. One of the causes might be an over-reliance on suspensions as the way to address disciplinary issues.”

“We’re looking at that and we will be making some changes,” he said.

According to the statistics, 256 of the Middle Schools’ total population of 1,442 students were suspended at least once last school year.

In contrast, 20 of the elementary schools’ total population of 3,577 students were suspended, and 122 of Franklin High School’s total population of 2,213 students were suspended.

In the middle schools, 160 students received at least one disciplinary report – known as Office Disciplinary Referrals, or ODRs – while at the elementary schools 179 students received at least one disciplinary report and at the high school, 329 students received at least one disciplinary report.

On the positive side, 95 percent of elementary students had no disciplinary problems, while that portion was 71 percent of middle school students and 80 percent of high school students, according to the data.

Overall, Wilson said, “We would expect that the majority of our students respond well to correction and are meeting the behavioral expectations and that’s what these (data) show.”

Wilson said that while the number of ODRs did increase from the 2021-22 to 2022-23 school years, strict comparisons sholdn’t be made.

“The 21-22 school year, although that was a ‘normal school year,’ it really wasn’t a normal school year because we still had students who were quarantined, students who had to miss school because of pandemic issues,” he said.

“The 22-23 school year really was a full school year for all of our students,” Wilson said. “The numbers are really not apples to apples in this particular case.”

The five top types of behavior that result in ODRs in the elementary schools are physical aggression, non-compliance, disruption, inappropriate language and unsafe objects, Wilson said. In the middle schools, the top five behaviors are disruption, physical aggression, non-compliance, inappropriate language and misuse of electronics.

Misuse of electronics in the middle schools increased from 31 incidents in the 2021-22 school year to 71 incidents in the 2022-23 school year, Wilson said.

“One of the trends that seems to weave its way throughout our discipline is the fact that the use of social media plays such a major role in how students interact, how they develop relationships with each other and sometimes how they behave,” he said.

In the high school, the top five behaviors leading to disciplinary action are cutting class, non-compliance, disruption, physical aggression, and tobacco, Wilson said.

Wilson said that in the high school, suspensions have given way to removal of student privileges as an effective disciplinary action.

In addition to peer mentoring, counseling and the District’s positive behavior program, students having teh ability to socialize after school again can help with shedding the negative behaviors, Wilson said.

“We are able to begin working again with community partners such as the (Franklin Township Youth Center) and (Somerset Community Action Program) to provide the kind of services and activities to our young people that enable them to get back together again as groups and interact with each other, build those relationship and social skills that are important for their group,” he said.

Also part of the report is the District’s Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying, or HIB, report.

The number of investigations into complaints of HIB increased from the 2021-22 school year to the 2022-23 school year from 74 to 167, Wilson said.

He said the number of confirmed incidents also rose from 23 in the 2021-22 school year to 53 in the 2022-23 school year.

By school, the breakdown of confirmed allegations from last school year to this one are:

  • Elementary, which went from 5 to 18 incidents.
  • Middle, which went from 16 to 31 incidents.
  • High school, which went from 2 to 4 incidents.

“We are continuing our focus in those areas and our teams are continuing to work with students, with communities, with parents, to address harassment, intimidation and bullying in general,” he said.

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