Richland 2 discipline issues increase

Blythewood – While in-school suspensions are generally trending downward in Richland 2, the opposite is true of out-of-school suspensions and expulsions, including at Blythewood area schools.

Both Blythewood area high schools and all three middle schools reported increases, as did one elementary school, according to online state report cards published by the S.C. Department of Education.

That’s consistent with data recently presented to the Richland 2 Board of Education. On Sept. 25, district staff said in-school suspensions (ISS) have been plummeting, but out-of-school suspensions (OSS) and expulsions are trending upward.

“Each year, we are well under 1 percent of students that actually get expelled,” said Cleveland Smith, the district’s chief administrative officer. “Even though last year’s numbers were up, which were 0.37 percent, its still less than 1 percent.”

Smith noted that increasing enrollment year to year has helped offset percentage increases in suspensions and expulsions.

“99.63 percent of our students never got to that point,” he said. “In any year, 99 percent of students are not at that level of expulsion.”

There are some key differences in how the state and district data were measured, however.

State report cards only report OSS and expulsion data “for violent and/or criminal offenses,” according to the Department of Education website.

District data presented on Sept. 25 included all suspensions and expulsions, regardless of the reason. The district’s data also included ISS figures, which are not listed on the state report cards.

In the report, delivered during the Sept. 25 board meeting, district staff said out-of-school suspensions rose from 2,380 in 2016 to 2,462 last year. Expulsions increased from 52 to 102, district data shows.

In-school suspensions dropped from 1,850 to 1,617. They had been as high as 2,382, the data shows.

School district data, though, is likely higher. In tabulating suspension and expulsion data, the district counted by the student. If one student was suspended multiple times, the district counted it as only one suspension, Smith said.

Dr. Monica Elkins-Johnson, the board’s vice-chair, questioned the methodology.

“You indicated that the students, if they served in in-school suspension six or seven times, they’re only counted once,” Elkins-Johnson said. “Walk me thru that. I’m trying to figure out how we’re having an accurate account if they’re only on the chart once. Is this an accurate reflection?”

Smith said the district used “unduplicated” data in compiling suspension and expulsion figures. He pledged to provide a more detailed report showing the total number of actual suspensions and expulsions at a later date.

According to state data, Blythewood High School out-of-school suspensions and expulsions involving violent and/or criminal offenses rose from 2.2 to 2.5 percent in the past two school years.

The 2017 report card lists Blythewood High’s student population at 2,001 students, resulting in about 50 suspensions and expulsions. That’s about one suspension or expulsion every 3.6 days in a 180-day school year.

Westwood High School reported an even higher percentage of suspensions and expulsions, rising from 2.2 to 4.1 percent.

The 4.1 percent figure translates to at least 55 suspensions and expulsions, or about one suspension or expulsion every 3.3 days, according to the data.

Muller Road Middle (0.8 percent), Blythewood Middle (1.7 percent) and Kelly Mill Middle (1.2 percent) saw increases as well, data shows.

Lake Carolina Elementary suspensions and expulsions rose slightly, from 1 to 1.2 percent. The rate dropped from 0.6 to zero percent at Round Top Elementary.

Bethel-Hanberry and Langford elementary schools didn’t report any suspensions or expulsions in 2016 or 2017, state data shows.

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