Dramatic drop in infractions, consequences in first semester at OPRF


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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

Click here to see the full discipline report.

Infractions and suspensions were down significantly for the fall 2012 semester at Oak Park and River Forest High School compared to the previous year's first semester, the high school reports.

Detentions, suspensions and expulsions declined over the two fall semesters. There were more than 700 suspensions in fall 2011 versus 266 so far this school year. Infractions have dropped by more than half over the same period, from roughly 3,600 in the first semester last year to about 1,400 this year. Only one student has been expelled so far this year, same as last year around this time.

Discipline data for fall 2012 was released last week.

Principal Nathaniel Rouse said the decline in consequences is due to the school's continued efforts to have a less punitive discipline system. The school's "Suspension Reduction Program," introduced this year, has also had a positive effect, Rouse said.

A student who receives a suspension for three or more days can qualify for the program and receive counseling or other interventions. That student can also remain in class while in the program. Forty-nine students qualified for the program after receiving either an in-school (ISS) or out-of-school (OSS) suspension. Only three students from that group declined to participate.

While touted as a success for keeping more students in the classroom, Rouse noted that some teachers have a problem with the program because a kid initially kicked out of class for poor behavior can return to the classroom, having accepted an intervention instead of a suspension.

Rouse acknowledged that the administration poorly communicated the program earlier in the year to faculty. Teachers also expressed concern about the overall safety of the campus with fewer students suspended for poor behavior.

"The last thing they want to do is send a student out of the class because they value that instructional time as much as anyone else. But when that happens there is an expectation that something [corrective] happens," Rouse said. "You can only imagine when there's an issue and a teacher finally decides to write a referral for a student, then that student shows up the next day, especially if a year ago in that same incident, that student perhaps wouldn't be in that class the next day."

Rouse also noted that consequences, overall, have been handed out differently this year. Consequences for the lesser serious infractions start with the least punitive, typically a detention.

"They start the consequence, no matter what the infraction is, with that lowest threshold," Rouse said. "We did that to eliminate the perception that some may have in the community that our student intervention directors, when they see students, their first response is going to the highest level threshold."

Failure to serve a detention continues to be the primary offense committed by students, accounting for the majority of infractions in the building. Rouse added that the school's new Code of Conduct will be implemented next month. The major change is a reduction in the ranges of consequences a student can face for a given infraction. Under the new code, a student will receive a specific consequence for a specific infraction.

Rouse says the school has also continued taking away campus privileges from students for certain infractions. Students, for instance, who continue to rack up detentions, are not allowed in sporting events or school concerts until they serve those detentions. Rouse said students have gotten the message and are serving those detentions.

The first semester's discipline data was presented and discussed at the March 21 District 200 Board of Education meeting. School board members were generally pleased with Rouse's report, especially the school's effort to keep more kids in class as opposed to being suspended.

Rouse stressed that the school is not becoming lax on discipline but rather is trying to help students make better decisions about their behavior.


1st Semester OPRF Discipline Report 2012-13 by wednesdayjournal

Reader Comments

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Joe Public from Oak Park  

Posted: March 30th, 2013 9:07 PM

I worked at a school, and there are legitimate ways to reduce poor behavior such as clear rules and expectations with consistent consequences. However, be sure that schools like to downplay discipline problems for two reasons: one, the school board, superintendent and the parents of the offenders view suspensions and discipline issues as being the fault of the teachers and other admin; two, the admin is terrified of being sued by a parent who claims their baby is being picked on.

2012 grad from Oak park  

Posted: March 30th, 2013 9:07 AM

New rules were put into place from 2011-2012 so the ISS and OSS went up from 2010-2011 because students didn't really know what they could get away with. It took about a year to figure out how to avoid being suspended, this is why the suspensions dropped in 2012-2013. The students are extremely smart when it comes to figuring out how to work the system. I know because I was in school for the rule changes and I figured out first hand all of the slick ways of avoiding trouble and suspensions.

Violet Aura  

Posted: March 28th, 2013 10:45 AM

(Cont.) students who have a hard time controlling their behavior will obviously not be well-served in a setting with many kids needing the teacher's attention. They would do much better in smaller class sizes. Another aspect of this is that Blacks (and Hispanics) are overrepresented in SPED. I believe that ED/BD may be one big factor, which stigmatizes the student when it comes to academic success. Hispanics are probably placed here erroneously due to linguistic issues.

Violet Aura  

Posted: March 28th, 2013 10:41 AM

@Rez: Sorry for using "shop" talk;) In any case, what many people might not realize is that Special Education includes emotional/behavior disorders(ED/BD), which I disagree with wholeheartedly. When I wore my onion belt and went to OPRF in the early '80s, there was the mysterious FOURTH FLOOR where the kids with behavioral issues received their instruction. I would love to know when that was phased out. It seemed to serve a purpose, although maybe the kids got too violent? In any case, (cont.)


Posted: March 26th, 2013 9:44 PM

Never mind, a simple google answered my question.


Posted: March 26th, 2013 9:41 PM

What are SPED services?

Violet Aura  

Posted: March 26th, 2013 7:04 PM

Maybe I shouldn't say "huge" problem. From the way they talked, it did seem significant but perhaps I should refrain from exaggerating if I am not sure...There is another issue that I heard about somehow. Apparently there is a lack of SPED services in Austin or the surrounding areas and they may be coming to OPRF for that purpose. Again, I am not sure. I would love an instructor from OPRF to pipe up about this issue!

Violet Aura  

Posted: March 26th, 2013 7:00 PM

@Rez: I would not be surprised if a substantial number got the boot. They might not publicize it, though. And it might have even been the impetus for cracking down on the problem. In other words they may have used money as a cover. I was on the OP Ave. bus once going south and I saw an OPRF student get on at Lake and get off at Roosevelt and head towards Berwyn...I overheard some educators discussing this very issue at Panera once. From what they said, it was a huge issue.

Violet Aura  

Posted: March 26th, 2013 6:57 PM

@Purim: So you know what I mean, eh? Wow, just wow...(By the way, given your name, I hope you are not one of those Zionists doing to Palestinians what the Europeans did to the indigenous in this country...) In any case, I am speaking of socio-economic status rather than melanin content. So those from 'hoods in Chicago, as well as surrounding 'burbs (Berwyn, Maywood, etc.) might have been represented in the OPRF population, uknowwhatimsayin'?

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 26th, 2013 3:17 PM

READ THE ARTICLE. No, VA detentions have gone down not up. To Parent, spoke with a friend who went to Lane Tech 45 years ago. He said that after 3 tardies they received detention, after 5 were dropped from their 1st period class and then would have to make up the class in summer school. Sounds like we are more permissive now.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 26th, 2013 2:42 PM

I don't think all students going to OPRF that are non-residents are AA. Couple of years ago I was approached by two people to use my address to get their kids into the HS. One was from Cicero and one from Forest Park. Just, so you don't need to ask, I said no.


Posted: March 26th, 2013 2:37 PM

I meant to say non-residents. Have a substantial number actually been removed? It would be nice to know how many non-residents we were footing the bill for, and also whether we can attribute much of the problems to the non-residents that were attending the school.


Posted: March 26th, 2013 2:08 PM

No, she means less black kids.


Posted: March 26th, 2013 11:05 AM

You mean kicking out non-students?

Violet Aura  

Posted: March 26th, 2013 10:28 AM

I just thought about a possible explanation for this: could it have to do with stepped-up enforcement in regards to out-of-district students?

OPRF Parent  

Posted: March 26th, 2013 9:29 AM

purpose and doesn't let them ignore their responsibility but makes it possible/reasonable for them to serve their detentions. It happens in education (and elsewhere) all the time -- if something doesn't appear to be working, we look at other ways to address it. Not taking away responsibility or accountability but figuring out a way to make it actually work. Give them tardies but don't send them home for it. Counterproductive in my opinion. And teachers do pick and choose who they write up.

OPRF Parent  

Posted: March 26th, 2013 9:27 AM

I am reasonable and also concerned about race. Unlike Speedway's analogy, with students in a public school, we can't fire them. So my point was that students should be on time. They aren't so we give them detentions which they don't serve. Then they get suspensions for not serving detentions. While my kid has never received a tardy so this isn't a personal issue, I do think we need to rethink how we handle these students. Why not have a lunchtime detention? I think that would serve a


Posted: March 26th, 2013 8:34 AM

OPRFParent, you seemed like a reasonable person right up until you went off the rails on race. And this whole article is a perfect reasons why the Baby Boom has destroyed this country. They have raised a generation of spoiled brats who don't want to follow the rules, and instead want the rules re-written to accommodate them.

OPRF Parent  

Posted: March 25th, 2013 5:13 PM

Truthfully I am much more worried about the disparity of racial issues. I know many will say black kids misbehave but I still believe (and have seen) black kids called out by white staff that would let a white kid go without saying anything. So until I am confident all kids are being treated equally, I think there needs to be work done at the school.

OPRF Parent  

Posted: March 25th, 2013 5:10 PM

(cont) serve it at lunchtime and have someone make sure they are there. I really don't know, I was just pointing out it seems counterproductive to keep kids out of school for being tardy when we are saying tardy is bad but a whole day out is okay? Lunchtime detention. Couldn't hurt to try. Again, just throwing out ideas, I am certainly no educational expert.

OPRF Parent  

Posted: March 25th, 2013 5:08 PM

Well my kid has never been tardy so I don't really have to worry about this. I was just suggesting that obviously the kids are not seeing the importance of serving the detentions so either the school needs to crack down or figure out another "punishment" for tardies. I don't have the answers, won't even pretend I do, but again if a kid is tardy (are we talking a minute, 20? what?), and doesn't serve the detention, then we keep them out of school? The reasoning doesn't work. Maybe make them

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 25th, 2013 4:32 PM

To OPRF Parent - Are you really saying that if students do not want to do detention for excessive tardiness, the school should find something else as a consequence? Actually there is they can do after school tutoring, instead, not good enough? How about parents grounding student, unplugging TV, computer, cell phone, until performance improves. Remember, excessive tardiness is cause for firing from a job. So OPRF parent what do you want to teach your child?

OPRF Parent  

Posted: March 25th, 2013 12:20 PM

On a quick glance (it's tiny!), it appears the detention issue presents a lot of problems. if detentions aren't being served, maybe there needs to be an alternative to that? Not saying allow students to be tardy, because obviously they should be on time but if kids are getting ISS because of tardies, not sure I agree with that. And the racial disparity is huge. Again, white staff have "trouble" with black students. Also the drug issue seemed to be white. Interesting & different than most assume

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 25th, 2013 12:01 PM

Actually, when you read further down in the lower box it states what behaviors are included in class 1 thru 4, than continues to provide statistics relating to the number of infractions by ethnicity.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 25th, 2013 11:55 AM

Also please read the discipline report in its entirety located at the bottom of this article. It will answer some of your questions and tell you what the school is actively doing about concerns by the community to reduce rates of suspension. I am not clear on what constitutes class 1,2,3, or 4 misconduct.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 25th, 2013 11:41 AM

To OPRF Parent - Look at the box at the top of the article. It lists the number of detentions, In-school suspensions and out-of-school suspensions. As you can see there are far more ISS than OSS.

OPRF Parent  

Posted: March 25th, 2013 11:36 AM

Well Speedway obviously in the past out of school suspensions were the solution. that doesn't work. In school suspensions would be ideal if it is paired with some counseling and intervention. I honestly don't know if the high school does that or not. Do you?

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 25th, 2013 11:11 AM

To OPRF parent - Do you think the HS doesn't already do that. If ineffective in intervention, are there not consequences. As much as we are educating students in the sciences and math the school is also educating the student in life skills. If a student wants to remain in class he must follow the rules. If a person wants to keep a job the same applies.

OPRF Parent  

Posted: March 25th, 2013 10:40 AM

I agree, OPRFDad but I also think it makes sense to keep the kids in school. It always baffled me why a kid who was in trouble was suspended from school to do what? Stay home, play video games, whatever? Keep them in school and give them some counseling/intervention. That's a great idea in my opinion.


Posted: March 25th, 2013 10:10 AM

Amazing. A less punitive system results in less punishment. Who would have ever thought it.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 25th, 2013 10:05 AM

success breeds success. However, to say that students who have less affluence, imperfect parents and family life, and starting the HS with less than perfect grades cannot do their best in this HS is a cop-out. Not every student needs to take AP classes to be a success, but they need to stick with it and learn what they are able and willing to.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 25th, 2013 9:56 AM

I believe what makes a HS great over mediocre is what the school brings to the table, and OPRFHS is loaded. Although not the top performing HS in state consider that it is public with no preadmission tests or grades requiremts. to attend. The price of admission is only your residence in the community. Students who tend to exceed the average are gifted with the ability to study longer hours and more often. They are often more involved in the school and have a goal to succeed. I believe that

OP Parent  

Posted: March 25th, 2013 5:54 AM

The activity that occurs is no different than anyplace you have a group of over indulged teenagers with poor kids. Stuff happens - bottom line is that OPRF is about average - in all aspects including crime. Being medicore is not a reality people in OP want to face but it is the truth.

OP Parent  

Posted: March 25th, 2013 5:50 AM

First OP is only a great school for AP students and if fact pales in comparison to the Top 15 in state ranking in mide 80's. Second, OP is not affluent - mean income is $75k (vs, $150-200k in other areas). Perhaps if we stop saying how wonderful we are and OPRF is, we could make the changes to address the gap and real growth. First step is being real and many OP people live in a dream world. Sorry being real

A parent  

Posted: March 24th, 2013 10:14 PM

OPRF is a great school that has a lot to offer the kid who tries with the parent that's involved. There are current problems such as violence and drugs, but that happens in other affluent areas too and is not exactly a sign the OPRF is in a downward trend. But we do need to address the issues when they arise and not try to find clever ways to use numbers to provide a skewed perception of reality. I'm glad to see numbers like this, I just hope it actually indicates real progress.


Posted: March 24th, 2013 3:02 PM

Thanks, Violet and OPRF Parent, I feel a little better. And yes I know teens swear. Just don't like to hear they are cursing at the teachers, as the comment below indicates. We are looking forward to OPRF, it seems to have strong academics and a huge variety of after-school activities for the kids to get involved in.

Violet Aura  

Posted: March 24th, 2013 1:13 PM

(Maybe over a glass of Ovaltine;)

Violet Aura  

Posted: March 24th, 2013 1:12 PM

@Soon-to-Be: Chill out. I am going to sit Wally and the Beav down and give them a stern talking to about profanity and bath salts...

OPRF Parent  

Posted: March 24th, 2013 12:31 PM

My kid is a senior and I have never been concerned about safety there. The kids are not at risk "daily." Calm down, Soon to be OPRF Parent. It's a great school. There isn't any school in the country that couldn't use some tweaking. No need to freak out. (Your comment about swearing made me laugh though. Don't think swearing is anything new and watch out 'cause your kid might be swearing without you knowing it!)

Soon-to-be OPRF parent  

Posted: March 24th, 2013 12:22 PM

What the heck is going on at OPRF? There should be zero tolerance for swearing, drug dealing, stealing, fights and BB gun bandits. It sounds like it's time for less talk and more disciplinary action. If chaos is happening, and children's safety is at risk daily, the adults running the building need to re-establish control.

OPRF Parent  

Posted: March 24th, 2013 11:28 AM

I disagree, Ach. There are secretaries/asst who can filter the students (how many ask for a meeting I wonder with the principal) & see if it is indeed something another person in the building could help with. But a blanket no student meeting policy? I don't like it. The students know so much more than the parents & most of the staff of what is going on in that building & to ignore their voice is not only disrespectful, it's irresponsible. I can understand Isoye being off-limits but Rouse? No

OPRF Achievement  

Posted: March 24th, 2013 9:58 AM

@ OPRF Parent - glad to see you have a child who wantsto make a difference. Problem u r not giving realistic expectations. Have them go to one of the many asst to principal. That is what they are there for. Than, one u have the chance to meet - follow up with them and see what happens. In life, even business, not all get to meet with the CEO just because they ask and have some ideas. Be real, but good luck and pursue their DREAMS. Also, take advantage of the Students Advisor for advice.

OPRF Parent  

Posted: March 24th, 2013 9:43 AM

A huge problem at OPRF is that the students themselves are not being heard. My kid tried to make an appointment to meet with the principal and guess what the answer was? He doesn't take appointments with students. What? My child wanted to voice some concerns & offer some possible solutions. If the adm/staff doesn't listen to the students, the administration should be replaced. Sad that student voices are not heard. That's so disrespectful.


Posted: March 24th, 2013 8:56 AM

The numbers seem very manipulated. Most students feel as tho fights and negative behavior have increased tremendously. Just read the student article in the high school newspaper about the increase in fights and violence. The student article is right on to what I hear from most of the students I know. The drug transactions in the baths and hallways is prevalent. I also know of many kids who won't go to the bathrooms during the day because of the problems that exist.


Posted: March 23rd, 2013 12:31 PM

If the truth really came out. According to my kid that place is up for grabs....kids talking back and swearing at staff and nothing is done about it. Kids robbing kids, fights after school, kids constantly getting belongins stolen.

@Amazed Parent  

Posted: March 23rd, 2013 9:10 AM

There's a lot of truth to everyone's comments but don't assume because the security guards are nice to the kids that they don't do their jobs (I also will admit I personally think they should be tougher). Remember it is the behavior that is bad, not the student so I wouldn't want security to be mean to students because they consider them "bad." I have seen personally mistreatment of black kids by white staff. And yes, I have complained about that to the administration. Fair should be the goal

Rochelle Peterson from Oak park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2013 8:53 AM

Because the office decides who gets suspended,it's easy to manipulate the numbers-I'd be more impressed if they said actual behavior improved-The teachers say behavior is worse-it's just being ignored- this is dangerous on many levels because the different "groups" of kids are punished at different rates-creating a rift where one should not exist!

Amazed Parent from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2013 8:35 AM

Our kids at Oak Park report no such downtown which leads me to wonder if this is the result of real change or the desire to ignore reality. As my daughter described it, the security guards and most troublesome kids are all friends since they have so much contact with each other.


Posted: March 22nd, 2013 6:18 PM

we applaud Principal Nathaniel Rouse for school's continued efforts to have a less punitive discipline system.

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