Suspensions up in Lynn schools

LYNN — Suspensions are slightly up at Lynn Public Schools, but drops were seen in numerous subgroups.

Deputy Superintendent Debra Ruggiero shared the data with the School Committee on Thursday night and outlined intervention methods the school district is taking to reduce suspensions.

One instructional strategy is the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), which is meant to teach behavioral expectations in the same manner as any core subject.

A team of teachers and administrators from a school will attend a training program focused on learning behavioral expectations aimed at changing the culture of the school, rather than simply telling a student how to behave. Eight schools have been trained so far.

A new initiative is the Positive Alternatives to Student Suspensions (PASS), which was rolled out at the district’s high schools in January. The program provides an alternative to suspensions.

Rather than being suspended for an infraction, a student would be sent to a day program in Beverly focused on addressing the underlying issues that led to the disciplinary action, which is aimed at changing behavior. Students receive tutoring, time for homework, and therapy.

In the five weeks since it kicked off, 11 students have been referred for infractions including vaping, which is one of the top reasons for suspension, leaving school without permission, cutting class due to mental health issues and social media threats.

Ruggiero said no school wants to suspend students. There should be consequences for poor behavior, but the district needs to work harder on not suspending and excluding kids from their education.

Suspensions have decreased each year since 2013, but have increased by less than half a percentage point this year over last year.

Data shared by Ruggiero showed about 6.9 percent of the student population had been disciplined with out-of-school suspensions last year.

“Suspensions are up by less than a full percentage point, which is not cause for celebration, but last year that percentage was the lowest on record,” said Superintendent Dr. Patrick Tutwiler.

“I don’t really see that it went up by less than a full point as significant. I would say definitively I would like to see them continue to go down. Our effort to meet students’ social and emotional needs and focus on engagement is only going to work toward that end.”

Despite an overall increase, data showed a drop in suspensions among numerous subgroups. In 2014, there were 20.8 percent of African American students suspended, with that figure dropping to 8.5 percent in 2018. There was also a drop from 2017, when there were 10.6 percent of African American students disciplined.

In 2014 to 2018, there was a 15.7 to 8.5 percent drop in Hispanic students suspended. But there was an increase from 2017 when there were 8.3 percent of those students suspended.

The amount of white students suspended decreased from 10.6 percent to 6.4 percent from 2014 to 2018, and decreased from 7.9 percent in 2017.

Two of the district’s most at-risk subgroups for suspension, the male population and students with disabilities, saw decreases. In 2014, there were 24.7 of students with disabilities suspended, which dropped to 11.6 percent in 2018.

There has been an increase in disciplined incidents at the high school level from 2018 to this year, but an increase at the middle school level. High school is down 201 incidences but the middle school is up by 156 incidences, something Ruggiero attributed to a large increasement in enrollment at the latter.


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