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A Clear Majority of TX Students Suspended/Expelled at Least Once, paxUnited can Help 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 5:10:38 PM

By Matt Kennedy
Research & Grants Specialist

A new six-year study titled Breaking School Rules reports that 60% of nearly one million Texas students tracked were suspended or expelled at least once between their 7th and 12th grade years.

A closer look at the study, released by the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center and the Public Policy Research Institute of Texas A&M University, reveals that just over 30% received out-of-schools suspension (OSS) and the rest fall into a category where students may have received in-school suspension (ISS) for a period as brief as one class period. Additionally, only 3% of the disciplinary actions were for state law mandated suspensions and expulsions so many could have been for minor issues concerning district policy.

However, whether the suspensions were in-school or out-of-school or the result of major or minor violations, the data is alarming. Educators, state officials and justices met in Austin today for a panel discussion on results of the study and to form solutions.

 “This report is a great ‘eye opener ‘ that everyone can take back to their community to establish a national campaign of awareness about this problem,” state Rep. Jerry Madden said at the hearing.

paxUnited’s eyes are wide open to the need for school discipline reform and since its formation has instituted established solutions to suspension and expulsion problems nationwide.

Ongoing independent evaluation conducted over the past 20 years has consistently shown that schools with the paxUnited mediation/mentoring program PMP Plus see a:

 

58% decrease in discipline referrals

 

90.2% decrease in assaults

 

 73% decrease in expulsions/suspensions

 

12.0% increase in GPA

62.5% reduction to ISS/AEP recidivism

70.8% reduction in tardiness

53.8% reduction in absenteeism

18.9% increase on standardized tests


The results clearly show that schools with paxUnited mentoring and mediation programs will see a dramatic improvement in the category of suspensions/expulsions and factors relating to it. For this reason, paxUnited was recently selected as a participant in the Suspend Kids to Schools Grant, an initiative supported by the Criminal Justice Division of Governor Rick Perry’s Office.

Michael Thompson, CSJ Justice Director and the commissioner of the study, said in a recent interview with National Public Radio that too much emphasis is placed on punishment and not enough emphasis is placed on “having students learn from their mistakes.”

Through mediation and mentoring, paxUnited addresses student behavior problems before they start. For example, our mediation program Peers Making Peace© lets student disputants and mediators form solutions at the onset of problems and our mentoring program Positive Action Center targets the demographic that is of most concern in the Breaking School Rules study – at-risk youth. By using students and teachers to mentor students recently admitted to In School Suspension (ISS) and Alternative Education Programs (AEP), PAC changes the mindsets of at-risk students before it is too late.

Breaking School Rules emphasizes that paxUnited’s work with at-risk youth is especially important considering 15% of the students studied fall into the “repeatedly disciplined” category of being disciplined 11 times or more. Half of the students in this category spent time in juvenile justice facilities and were likely to repeat a grade and not graduate due to poor academic outcomes.

The study is considered groundbreaking because it tracked all 7th graders in the state over the course of six years, not just a small sample size. Panelists at the Austin meeting mentioned that Texas is not necessarily an “outlier” concerning the suspension problem; it just has startling results concerning a singular study. For example, the percentage of K-12 students receiving out-of-school suspensions/expulsions in 2010 was 12.7% in California compared to 5.7% in Texas, according to Michael Thompson.

“[Texas] has the best information system in the country to examine this issue,” Hon. Wallace Jefferson, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas said. “We have a history of being transparent, not shying away from complex problems and being willing to go where the data takes us.”

Jefferson went on to say that he hopes the scrutiny that this study applies to school discipline will be “a model for other states in our country.”

Clearly, the recent data in Texas is startling, but it is also reveals the need for national reform of school discipline systems. This study reinforces paxUnited’s resolve to establish sound partnerships with educators and politicians.

 “It’s going to take political and administrative courage in order to respond,” Hon. Jeffrion Aubry, chair of the CSG Justice Board said. “I believe the extraordinary work done here in Texas will lead to greater results around the country.”

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