Suspensions and expulsions in Clark County schools are down from previous years, but district leaders are still exploring how to continue improving those numbers, specifically among students who are disproportionately affected.
Across the district, suspensions last year were down 10 percent from the 2018-2019 school year, from 30,282 to 27,160, according to student discipline data presented by the district Thursday.
Suspensions in middle schools and high schools were still above the target that the district had set for itself, with 12,689 suspensions in middle schools and 12,179 in high schools.
In elementary schools though, suspensions dropped by 34 percent. Discretionary expulsions also fell by nearly 20 percent overall during the same time period.
Yolanda Flores, assistant superintendent for education services, said the district was still seeing a positive trajectory, but numbers from 2019-2020 and 2020-2021, when the district was interrupted by the pandemic, were considered atypical school years.
“We are going in the right direction,” Flores said.
But Kyle Rogers, who addressed the board during public comment, called the district’s presentation “not honest” and said it did not account for all forms of exclusionary discipline, including in-house suspensions.
“Kids are missing more class due to in-house suspensions than suspensions,” he said. “Why aren’t we tracking that category if it’s resulting in more lost class time?”
Students are still being disproportionately disciplined across the district, a trend that tracks with school districts across the country, according to Mike Barton, the district’s chief college, career, equity and school choice officer.
“I don’t think we’ve found a district that’s hitting a home run in this area,” Barton said. “I think it’s a challenge that we’re going to continue to work on locally, but with national partners.”
In Clark County, the largest disparity existed among Black students, who were suspended at a rate more than double the one the district originally hoped to achieve.
A study published by the American Psychological Association last year found that Black students who were disproportionately and harshly disciplined for minor infractions had significantly lower grades than their peers who weren’t suspended.
When it came to expulsions, disproportionality in the district was less severe, with the district meeting and even exceeding its target goals for expulsions for American Indian/Alaskan Native students, Hispanic/Latino students and white students.
Last year, the district also implemented an elementary school support model that includes rooms where students can go and work with professionals when they’re having a bad day.
So far, Barton said 24 elementary schools in the district have adopted the support model with the “reset rooms,” with plans to roll them out to all elementary schools across the district.
“It’s an opportunity for children who are having a bad 20 minutes, and they come in and provide the support, even restructure the entire furniture in that room,” Superintendent Jesus Jara said. “It’s very proactive.”
Barton said the district also began holding town halls last year at specific schools when it began seeing escalating numbers regarding suspensions.
The town halls were meant to give students a voice about safety and the environment on school campuses, and will continue this year.
“We really want to hear from the students on what they envision helping them stay in school, not having disrupted education through discipline,” he said.
Contact Lorraine Longhi at 702-387-5298 or email@example.com. Follow her at @lolonghi on Twitter.