By Terry Dean
Although the percentage of black students suspended in the two middle schools in Oak Park Elementary School District 97 has dropped by nearly 10 percent in the last year, that particular student population still overwhelming leads all other kids in compiling infractions and receiving consequences.
But while the percentages associated with those students are high, the actual number of students with infractions and consequences is relatively small. That's also the case with other ethnic groups.
New discipline data was released last week, showing 63 percent of black students receiving both in-school (ISS) and out-of-school (OSS) suspensions at Julian and Brooks middle schools for the current school year, compared to 71 percent the previous year — a decrease of 8 percent. Suspensions for white students during that same period rose slightly, from 23 to 26 percent. For all other student groups combined — including Asian, Hispanic and Native American — suspensions increased significantly from 6 to 11 percent.
According to enrollment data for the current school year, the combined student population of both middle schools is 1,685 (834 for Brooks; 851 for Julian). Overall, only 87 students have been suspended so far this year, compared to 107 for the 2009-10 school year. Only one student has been expelled this school year.
Out-of-school suspensions increased from 27 to 42 percent in the last year. In-school suspensions, meanwhile, fell to 58 percent from 73 percent in 2009-10. The total number of infractions has also decreased over the last year, from 187 to 132.
Fighting was the leading infraction for both in-school and out-of-school suspensions. For this category, black students also dominated the discipline system compared to other racial groups. Thirty-three black kids were suspended, compared to five white students. Percentage-wise, African-American students represented 80 percent of all suspicions for fighting. But those 33 kids are a small portion of the overall black student population of 470 at the middle schools.
Disrespect has been an infraction the middle schools have long sought to address. Here again, blacks represented 60 percent of all infractions, though only nine students out of the total black population were disciplined.