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Small percentage of Carroll students contribute to school discipline data, CCPS says; Black students disproportionately disciplined

While Carroll County schools reports a mixture of increases and decreases in student discipline at the different levels of school over the last three years, the overall assessment is that there has been no net change.

However, one takeaway from the data is that the discipline rates of Black students are disproportionate.

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School staff gave an update on school discipline rates at Wednesday’s school board meeting, but underlined that the pandemic and limited in-person instruction impacted the data. Staff compared three-year discipline data, from 2017-18 to 2019-20, but only up to Feb. 28, 2020, before the pandemic caused schools to close.

The report was part of a presentation of pillar IV of its strategic plan, which covers safe, secure, healthy and modern learning environment

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The major referral categories the system identifies are attacks, threats, fighting; sex offenses; and disrespect and disruption. The pillar IV report stated there has been “no net change” over the past three years. When comparing 2018-19 school year to 2019-20, there was an 18% increase in the identified offenses.

“Due to needing to truncate the data at Feb. 28 because of COVID-19, it is possible that early intervention and targeted supports based on identified behaviors may have resulted in a decline in the number of referrals over the year as a whole if we were able to finish the entire school year in a traditional model,” the pillar IV update report stated.

It also states rates at the elementary level showed improvement and credited the focused professional learning and targeted resources for the three-year downward trend. On the middle and high school level, trends are upward, according to the report. And increased referrals in the disrespect and disruption category are where the primary increases occur, especially on the middle school level.

The data showed between 3-4% of Carroll’s elementary students, 7-8% of middle school students and 4-5% of high school students contribute to the discipline numbers.

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“One student may have one referral and one student may have 60 or 70 referrals,” Karl Streaker, director of student services, said during the meeting. He added discipline data is most used to develop individualized plans for students who are struggling.

Marsha Herbert, board of education president, said if one or two students were removed from the data, “it changes the whole ballgame.”

Elementary students went from a total of 1,668 total referrals in the 2017-18 school year to 1,266 in 2018-19 then to 1,228 in 2019-20. Middle school students went from 893 to 866 then up to 1,255 during the same timeframe and high schoolers went from 908 total referrals in 2017-18 school year to 816 in 2018-19 then up to 982 in the 2019-20 school year.

A bar graph provided by the school system showed white students, which are 82% of the population as of January 2021, according to state data, far outnumbered students of color for the number of offenses in the last three years.

Data from Maryland State Department of Education reports on its website that during the 2017-18 school year, that white students in Carroll County Public Schools were 79% of the 1,194 offenses that resulted in a suspension or expulsion. Black students, who are 4% of the student population, made up 9% of the offenses. And Hispanic and Latino students, the next highest racial demographic in this category who make up 7% of the student population, made up 6% of the offenses that year.

The following year, white students made up 78% of the offenses that resulted in a suspension or expulsion, according to MSDE. Black students were 7% and Hispanic and Latino students were 6%.

During the 2019-2020 school year, the year schools closed early due to the pandemic, the number of offenses that resulted in suspensions and expulsions were lower. However, the rates remain similar. White students were three-fourths of the total offenses, Black students were 9% and Hispanic and Latino students were 6%.

“I still see that our Black and African American students do have some high numbers there,” board member Patricia Dorsey said at the meeting while looking at the data staff provided.

She added she hopes the programs like Sources of Strength, a youth suicide prevention program, will be helpful and the current programs in place led to better numbers on the elementary level. It will be available in all middle schools beginning next school year and will expand among the high schools.

Chantress Baptist, director of Human Resources, said in an interview that staff have annual diversity, equity and inclusion training. And it’s also covered in the employee handbook.

“We continue to utilize the learning gained from the Elementary Behavior Task Force and plan to modify and implement these strategies for the middle and high school levels,” the report states.

Streaker said they are working to implement more restorative approaches in targeted schools, and they also have implemented a social emotional curriculum.

Academic recovery

The school system gave an update to its academic recovery plan, a detailed plan to help students bounce back from the increase in failing grades during the pandemic. The update included details on school resource officer coverage, food production sites and the English and math standards and expectations.

Jason Anderson, chief of academics, equity and accountability, said on during the meeting that 2,131 general education students signed up for summer recovery. An additional 350 students will receive extended school year services and 134 students will need compensatory services, which is less than staff initially expected.

Anderson also said the student to teacher ratio will be in single digits during the summer recovery session with 235 elementary teachers on the elementary level, 106 teachers and for middle schools and 43 high school teachers along with dozens of instructional assistants.

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