The number of short-term suspensions in public schools statewide declined during the 2007-08 school year, but long-term suspensions and expulsions increased, according to a recent report. However, Bladen County Schools once again bucked those facts by showing decreases in numbers from the previous year.
The data, compiled by the state’s Department of Public Instruction, reported a decrease in short-term suspensions from 310,744 in the 2006-07 school year to 308,010 in the next year. Our local schools agreed with that trend, decreasing from 1,962 short-term suspensions in 2006-07 to 1,849 last year.
A disturbing finding in Bladen County’s numbers was the fact that, during the 2006-07 year, 10 pre-kindergarten students were placed on short-term suspension, along with two in the same age group in 2007-08.
“Unfortunately, there are some who simply must be sent home, regardless of the age,” Assistant Superintendent Roland McKoy said.
The information used in the statistics on the statewide level were not reported by age group or grade level for a comparison to the local numbers, however.
Long-term suspensions, which are classified as those lasting 11 days or more, decreased in Bladen County for 2007-08, though an increase was shown statewide.
The numbers in Bladen were down to 46 long-term suspensions, down from 66 in the prior school year.
Expulsions throughout the state increased to 116 from 102 in 2006-07, though Bladen reported no expulsions during either school year.
A significant factor in the decline of Bladen’s numbers is the implementation of programs at the School of Extended Hope, Bladen’s alternative school located on Martin Luther King Drive in Elizabethtown.
“We’ve expanded our alternative school to include one program for short-term suspension students and another for long-term suspensions,” Superintendent Kenneth Dinkins.
Many students who are faced with suspension are given the opportunity to enter the programs offered at Extended Hope that will allow them to stay in school and to be counted present during their disciplinary absence at their home school. In these programs, the students continue to attend classes on the Extended Hope campus in lieu of being out of school, giving them the opportunity to keep up with their studies.
“It has reduced the number of suspensions,” Dinkins said. “Unless they are deemed a threat, they are allowed to go to Extended Hope. It keeps them off the streets.”
The programs began in January 2007, with the 2007-08 school year being the first full year the option has been available to students. The downward trend in the numbers of suspensions seems to, in fact, be continuing during the present school year, McKoy said.
“I love it,” McKoy said of the programs offered at Extended Hope for suspended students. “It’s been salvation for our kids, and it’s helped our attendance and test scores as well.”
Dinkins agrees with McKoy’s sentiments on the programs.
“By revising our alternative school, it is allowing us to keep more kids in school in the hopes that they will remain in school and go on to earn their high school diplomas,” he said.
East Arcadia officials disagree
Some officials of East Arcadia Schools do not agree with the proclaimed success of Bladen County Schools’ decreasing numbers.
Carol Graham, president of the East Arcadia School Parent-Teacher Organization, presented a letter to the Bladen County Board of Education during the March meeting expressing the organization’s concern over issues at the school, including test scores and the suspension and dropout rates in the county.
“We have reason to believe the numbers coming from the county are not correct,” Graham said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “There’s a lot of things we’re finding out about our school just don’t add up.”
Graham said she was unable to elaborate on the organization’s disagreement at this time, but did say that Bladen County School Board Chair Berry Lewis and possibly a few other members have agreed to meet with them to discuss the issues of concern.
One program that would be helpful at East Arcadia, Graham said, would be one that offered in-school suspension options.
“When a child is suspended, they don’t have to be out of school,” she said. “We need that kind of option to keep children in school. If they’re out of school, they can’t keep up and end up struggling.”
Graham said this is especially true with black males in the East Arcadia community.
“These children might get passed on through their grade and on to East Bladen,” she said. “They never get it and they drop out. That’s what is happening with our black boys.”
Graham went on to say statistics were higher for black males in that community in “any category you can come up with” in regards to suspensions, expulsions and dropouts.
For more information about the consolidated report, contact the N.C. Department of Public Instruction's Communications Division at 919-807-3450.