A call for school district reports on student suspensionsDecember 27, 2013
Information about student suspensions is rarely made public, except in extreme cases such as the action against seven basketball players from an Abbotsford secondary school after hazing allegations.
Most school districts don’t tell their parent community how often students are suspended or why. Some say they don’t even collect such information.
Abbotsford is one of the few that does. Every year, the district publishes a report on student suspensions that tries to identify trends and determine whether such discipline is effective.
In its 2012-13 report released last month, the district noted that suspensions have dropped by roughly 30 per cent since 2008 – to 1,254 from 1,794. Staff credits a shift in culture that includes in-house alternate programs “to support and teach these students, rather than punish them.”
While the number of suspensions has dropped since 2008, discipline for drug use remained high. But Godden says suspending students is problematic on a number of fronts, especially for at-risk and vulnerable students.
His report provides valuable information for trustees, school staff and parents, and BCCPAC thinks such summaries should be available in all districts. Last year, delegates to the annual general meeting passed a resolution calling on government to make it mandatory for boards of education to keep records and report publicly on student suspensions and permanent expulsions. Such reporting would be categorized by school, number of students, length of suspension, reason for suspension, number of permanent expulsions from school or district and total number of suspensions each month.
But the Education Ministry declined. In its response to the resolution, it said: “Currently, the ministry requires board of education to report on a range of matters, including student achievement and class size and composition. We are reluctant to impose the administrative burden of additional reporting requirements at this time.”
Any PAC that is concerned about the use of suspension or expulsion in their school can ask the board of education for information, it added.
Google and Infomart searches suggest that a few districts do collect such information but don’t share it broadly. For example, the superintendent’s report on student achievement in Quesnel notes that suspensions have been dropping in that district as well.
“We are pleased to note the reduction of student suspensions overall, but especially at the secondary levels. We believe that the new school cultures created by reconfiguring the two secondary grade 8-12 schools in 2009-10 to a junior secondary with Grade 8 and 9 and a senior secondary with Grades 10-12 continues to be a positive contributing factor.
“Since the reconfiguration, we have documented significant reductions in the use of tobacco, alcohol and drugs. Suspensions for students in Grades 8 & 9 have decreased significantly over the past three years.”
When I wrote about this in 2011 for the Vancouver Sun, I found mention of similar reports in only four other districts: Kamloops-Thompson, Richmond, Nanaimo-Ladysmith and Peace River South.