Mixed Bag Of Results In School Violence And Vandalism Report

Orvyl Wilson, the school district director of school management, talks about the bi-annual Violence, Vandalism, Substance Abuse and District Student Discipline report at the Oct. 19 school board meeting.

Franklin High School experienced an increase in the number of student suspensions and the number of students pegged for policy violations in the 2016-17 school year, according to a report presented Oct. 19 to the Board of Education.

Conversely, FHS experienced a sharp decrease in the number of students who skipped class, according to the latest Violence, Vandalism, Substance Abuse and District Student Discipline Bi-Annual Report, presented to the board by Orvyl Wilson, the district’s director of school management.

That roughly 50 percent drop in the number of incidents of class-cutting and slight decrease in incidents of physical aggression more than made up for reported increases in categories such as noncompliance/defiance, disruption and use of electronic devices, according to the report. The result for the high school was a decrease in the number of so-called “Office Discipline Referrals” from 2,112 in the 2015-2016 school year to 2,018 in the 2016-17 school year.

The  high school also saw an increase in the percentage of total students suspended from 9 percent in the 2015-16 school year to 11 percent in the 2016-17 school year, according to the report.

Overall, district results for the 2016-17 school year were a mixed bag, Wilson told the board.

Former FHS principal Cheryl Clarke, who abruptly resigned earlier this month, aggressively enforced the school’s policies and procedures during her short tenure, starting from the first day of school for students in 2016.

Wilson said that enhanced enforcement of the student code of conduct could be one reason for the increases in reported infractions and in students suspensions, which jumped from 9 percent of all FHS students in 2015-16 to 11 percent in 2016-17.

Franklin Middle School and Sampson G. Smith Intermediate School experienced increases in the total number of discipline referrals last school year, Wilson said, “mainly in bus disturbances.”

Wilson did say that there was a “significant drop” in the number of bus disturbances at the schools starting in about mid-year.

For the year, discipline referrals in the schools increased from 1,348 in 2015-16 to 1,432 in 2016-17.

Bus disturbances at the schools dropped from nearly 500 to fewer than 200, while instances of physical aggression increased from about 300 to nearly 400, disruptions increased from fewer than 100 to more than 200, and instances of defiance and the use of inappropriate language increased slightly, according to the report.

“There are some things we’re still concerned about,” Wilson said, noting that the district has “some strategies to deal with” instances of aggression.

Discipline referrals in the township’s elementary schools increased from 756 in the 2015-16 school year to 893 in teh 2016-17 school year, according to the report.

Instances of physical aggression in the elementary schools increased from slightly more than 200 in 2015-16 to 300 in 2016-17, according to the report.

Curbing physical aggression in the elementary schools “is something we are focusing on this school year,” Wilson said.

Bus disturbances decreased slightly, remaining in the mid-200s, from 2015-16 to 2016-17, according to the report.

“In the middle of the year we began to utilize bus safety officers” for the elementary schools, Wilson said. “Even though we were not able to implement it totally, it did have an impact, so we are going to be continuing that.”

“We believe that dip you see (in the total number of bus disruptions) is a result of the training and impact of those bus safety officers,” he said.

The most disciplinary infractions occurred in the 2016-17 school year on school buses, according to the report, followed by in classrooms, the cafeterias, the surrounding communities and in stairways and hallways of the buildings.

The overall percentage of students who were suspended in the 2016-17 school year increased from the prior year, according to the report.

The biggest jump was recorded at Sampson G. Smith School, where 7 percent of the total students were suspended in the 2016-17 school year, doubling the rate of the prior year.

Wilson pointed out that 7 percent is “still less than the national average.”

Suspension rates from the 2015-16 school year to the 2016-17 school year at the other schools were:

  • Conerly Road School: .5 percent to 1.9 percent
  • Elizabeth Avenue School: .9 percent to .8 percent
  • Franklin Park School: 1.5 percent to 2.9 percent
  • Hillcrest School: 1.6 percent to .9 percent
  • MacAfee Road School: .9 percent to 2.3 percent
  • Pine Grove manor School: 1 percent to 3.5 percent
  • Franklin Middle School: 13 percent to 13.3 percent

The report also includes information on incidents of harassment, intimidation and bullying. HIB incidents decreased from the 2015-16 school year from 30 to 23 in the 2016-17 school year, according to the report.

“Overall, considering the number of students we have in this district, we have a pretty good handle” on HIB, Wilson said.


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