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“We will see further reductions overall, but in particular in elementary schools,” he said.
Suspensions for fifth to 12th grade decreased by 19 percent districtwide in the 2013-2014 school year, from 4,091 to 3,294.
The majority of overall suspensions, 30 percent, occurred after a student acted in a disruptive, disorderly or insubordinate manner, according to data obtained by the Star Tribune.
There were 139 total suspensions for kindergarten, about 3 percent of total suspensions. Although the numbers are low, researchers and critics across the country have questioned whether children in the early grades should ever be suspended, particularly at schools where a larger percentage of students are homeless or lack stable housing.
Susanne Griffin, the district’s chief academic officer, said the district is working on identifying schools like Anishinabe that may need additional resources.
“Every two weeks, we’ll be looking at our data and we’ll be present and ask the school what they need from us so we can help,” Griffin said.
Griffin said school leaders should also learn from each other. She wants schools that have been able to reduce suspensions to share ideas with those that are struggling.
The principal of Anishinabe could not be reached for comment.
Griffin said the district’s new behavior standards will establish a clear definition for what constitutes disruptive and disorderly behavior.
“There needs to be a common understanding of what is disruptive behavior,” Griffin said.
The district has now categorized behavior in five different levels, from name-calling and bad language to bomb threats and threats of extreme violence.
For mildly unruly behavior, staff is instructed to redirect student behavior, but not send students home. The most extreme bad behavior can result in immediate suspensions.
The district is training teachers and principals to reinforce positive behaviors, instead of singling out bad behavior.
“We also recognize there are situations where kids come into school with any number of issues and come in with some pretty unsafe behavior,” Griffin said. “It’s delicate balance. We want to put supports in place that make school a safe and positive environment for every child.”
Alejandra Matos • 612-673-4028