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ECPPS' out-of-school suspensions down by half

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Joanne Sanders

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Thursday, January 24, 2019

So far this year, the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools has sent home only about half as many students on suspension for misconduct as last year.

A report presented to the ECPPS Board of Education on Tuesday shows the district reported 415 out-of-school suspensions during the first semester, compared with 794 in the first semester of last school year.

Jennifer Hawkins, director of testing and accountability for ECPPS, attributed the decline mainly to better training of teachers and administrators in subjects such as autism and alternatives to suspension.

Hawkins insisted the statistics do not reflect a retreat from discipline, and she said current standards of conduct are still being maintained.

“It doesn’t mean you can come in and do whatever you want without consequences,” Hawkins said. “It’s just that the consequences start before suspension.”

Among those receiving the training are school resource officers, who’ve gotten more information about students classified as exceptional children. Administrators have received training on providing alternatives to suspension. Instructional coaches, bus drivers and bus monitors also have received more training. 

Board member George Archuleta said he would like to see even more training for school staff.

“I think this training is great but I was just wondering should we make it more mandatory?” he asked.

Hawkins said the district’s emphasis thus far has been on voluntary training for school staff.

Interim Superintendent Joanne Sanders said the district has tried to offer as much of the training as possible in ways that don’t pull teachers out of the classroom.

Board Chairwoman Sharon Warden asked if teachers are getting credit for volunteering to take additional training.

Yes, Hawkins said, adding, “We take care of them.”

Morale at the schools also is very good, which is another contributing factor to the decline in out-of-school suspensions, Hawkins said.

“Happy teachers don’t make as many discipline referrals,” she said.

Hawkins said the effort to reduce out-of-school suspensions is coupled with a commitment to ensuring teachers know they have the district’s support in maintaining discipline.

“And of course you still want your teachers to feel supported,” Hawkins told the board. “”We don’t ever want them to feel like we’re not doing something.”

Board member Denauvo Robinson asked what the alternatives are to suspension. He was informed they include counseling and peer support.

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