Student Suspensions in Charles County Continue to Decrease

LA PLATA, Md. (Sept. 30, 2008)—Charles County Public Schools student suspensions decreased for the fourth consecutive year, according to a recent report sent to the Maryland State Department of Education. Suspensions dropped slightly from 5,662 in the 2006-07 school year to 5,490 in 2007-08, even with an increase in student population and the opening of a new school.

A key factor in the continued reduction of suspensions is the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program used in most schools. While school suspensions have increased in Maryland, the number of suspensions and multiple suspensions in Charles County has declined. Charles County Public Schools successful PBIS program was recently recognized by Advocates for Children & Youth, which credits the school system's commitment to positive reinforcement for the reduction.

"Charles County's results show how suspensions can be reduced with well-implemented, well-supported PBIS programs," according to the report. The full study is available at Advocates for Children and Youth is an independent nonprofit organization that promotes improved outcomes for Maryland's children.

Keith Grier, director of student services, said the PBIS program was introduced in 1999 and has grown in the county. PBIS is a voluntary state program that helps schools create better school climates, spending less time on discipline and more time on teaching and learning. There are 31 schools participating in the program, and many of them have been awarded Exemplar by the Maryland State Department of Education.

Superintendent James E. Richmond said the goal is not to reduce suspensions, but to use data to put in place programs that help students change behaviors that lead to suspension.

Piccowaxen Middle School, for example, has drastically reduced suspensions since implementing PBIS. In 2005-06, there were 148 suspensions at the school. This past school year, suspensions were down to 42. Principal Kenneth Schroeck credits the establishment of the PBIS program for the reduction. "During the three years that PBIS has been implemented at Piccowaxen Middle School there has been a focus on everyone's role in teaching and promoting positive behaviors, students and faculty alike. This, in addition to celebrating positive behaviors in a wide variety of ways, has enabled our strong school to blossom exponentially. PBIS is more than creating a safe and more effective school. It is about changing student and faculty behavior and showcasing the wonderful decisions students are making. The proof is in the data. Over the last three years classroom disruptions, referrals and suspensions have all decreased while attendance, grades, assessment scores and enrollment in extracurricular activities are all on the rise. You can't help but be proud of what the students are doing," Schroeck said.

Additionally, the school system continues to expand its alternative programs, primarily at the Robert D. Stethem Educational Center. These programs are for students whose behavior makes it difficult for them to fit into or remain in school-based classrooms. Alternative, hands-on programs are offered to engage students in school and helping them understand the practical application of what they are learning. For example, a horticulture class at the center teaches students concepts of math as they work out dimensions and plans for gardens.

Charles County Public Schools continues to work to reduce disruptions in schools and to keep students in class. "When students engage in negative behavior, it disrupts learning in the classroom. If students miss school due to suspension, they are not learning. It's a cycle that we are working hard to prevent," said Ronald Cunningham, deputy superintendent. Cunningham said the school system continues to distribute the Student Code of Conduct to all students at the beginning of each school year with the expectation they will read it with their parents, who will re-enforce the rules at home. Some offenses, such as possession of a weapon or illegal drugs, will always result in suspension, Cunningham said.

Charles County Public Schools posts its suspension data as part of its ongoing efforts to address and monitor suspension rates in schools. Information posted on the Web site includes 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08 end-of-year suspension figures by category as well as category definitions. The reports are located at and include suspension information compiled and reported to the state.

Source: The Charles County public school system

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