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North Carolina #1 in ISS Rates

Credit: CreativeCommons

Credit: CreativeCommons

Ryan Smoot, Reporter

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Over 223,000 students were punished with in-school-suspensions (ISS) in North Carolina in 2016, a 15,000 rise from 2015, and the highest rate in the country. In Buncombe County, the trend was similar, with a 2% rise in ISS in 2016.

 

Whether the increase in suspensions is the result of poor student behavior, or strict school administration, is up for debate.

 

“I think suspensions are typically justifiable,” said senior Kali Cannon. “But certain teachers give referrals at a much higher rate than others, for usually minor reasons.”

 

“So many typically-good students are assigned ISS because of Reynolds’ tardy policy,” said

Jeremiah Phillips. Reynolds allows for up to 5 tardies, and additional tardies result in suspension.

 

Students missed more than a million days in North Carolina during the 2015-16 school year, solely due to suspensions, whether OSS or ISS. Though suspensions are an effective discipline tool for school administration, students’ grades typically suffer as a result. Even in ISS, students miss valuable class instruction time, with little tasks other than staring blankly in a small cubicle.

 

Within the ISS classroom, Reynolds’ students described the atmosphere as “boring” and “mind-numbing”.

 

Teachers are technically supposed to assign work to suspended students, but junior Foster Coates said “Teachers rarely assigned me work. When they did, it wasn’t helpful in learning class material.”

 

Coates expressed his frustration further, explaining he “was forced to eat lunch at 10am, which made me starving by 1 o’clock,” and by the afternoon, “we’re all having to wash tables in the cafeteria.”

 

“Students not being in class are always a concern,” said Buncombe County Assistant Superintendent, Joseph Hough, pointing out “studies have shown a direct correlation on student achievement with time on task in the classroom.”

 

Solutions are underway to address student-behavioral issues existing in the county, with Buncombe participating in a 3-year grant to implement “Compassionate Schools” — an initiative with a goal to develop and support a healthy atmosphere and culture within the school, focusing on students chronically exposed to stress and trauma.

 

Referring to such initiative, Director of Student Services, David Thompson, stated that “this model teaches our teachers and administrators to recognize the impact of adverse experiences and stress on student’s brains that creates negative responsive behaviors,” however, the policy may not be seen in Reynolds until next fall.

 

Even with such initiatives underway, Thompson and fellow county staff are continually researching new disciplinary guidelines, and education, to reduce suspensions.

 

“Currently, we are investigating some training available…in providing a positive impact on discipline while reducing the number of repeat offenses from individual students,” Thompson said.

 

Buncombe County School Board Member, Cindy McMahon — parent of two A.C. Reynolds students — seeks a methodical approach to suspensions, viewing them as a necessary evil, which can potentially be limited.

 

“My perspective is that ISS serves an important purpose and we need to continue to find other, creative ways to address discipline issues in order to decrease reliance on ISS.”

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North Carolina #1 in ISS Rates