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Newhall School District reviews suspensions

The Newhall School District saw a slight decrease in the number of suspensions it had over the course of a school year, according to the most recent data available.

However, district officials believe that the continued rollout of their positive behavior interventions and supports programs will lower that number even more.

In a presentation given to the governing board on Tuesday, Kimberley Howe, director of student support services for the Newhall School District, said the school district as a whole for the 2017-18 school year showed a slight decrease, or what the California Dashboard describes as “maintained,” of -0.1%.

Of the 6,863 students enrolled for the 2017-18 school year, 1.1% were suspended at least once. In 2015-16, the percentage of students suspended was 0.8%, and 2016-17 showed 1.2%, according to the California Dashboard.

In the data analysis portion of the presentation, Howe said students were suspended in 10 out of 10 schools for causing, attempting or threatening physical injury. Students were suspended in five out of 10 schools for possession, sale or furnishing a firearm, knife, explosive or other dangerous object (which may include imitation objects, such as a toy gun, knife, etc.), she added.

Howe recommended that more behavior and de-escalation training and support be given to school site staff and administration, particularly for students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism.

Solome Kasozi, the parent of a Meadows Elementary School second-grader with autism, said during the meeting that she would want the district to revisit how the district goes about suspensions. Of the 917 students with disabilities within the district in 2017-18, 2.9% were suspended at least once, an increase of 0.6% from the previous year.

“I don’t think the suspensions are helping him,” said Kasozi. “It looks like we are working, but we’re falling somewhere in the special needs group, because we are only suspending, I think, to kind of release ourselves rather than helping the kids, which is increasing the suspensions.”

Following the presentation, NSD board President Sue Solomon said that the California Dashboard gives a good visual representation of what’s going on within the district in terms of suspensions, and will allow Howe to dig deeper into the cause of these incidents that result in discipline.

“As a board member, I am curious how those suspensions are determined,” said Solomon. “It’s different for every child and, I mean, obviously there are certain laws and policies that would require a physical suspension. But I’m interested in how we can decrease that, how we can look at those triggers of those behaviors so that we can limit … suspensions.”

The positive behavior support programs at the district, which had been rolled out at eight of the district’s 10 schools last year, and at the final two for the 2019-20 school year, are things Solomon is looking toward as a possible solution.

Positive behavior intervention and support programs involve teaching students positive behaviors and then rewarding them for exemplifying those behaviors, according to district officials. Those eight schools that had seen their first year of PBIS’s implemented in 2018-19 were recognized by a statewide coalition.

“Students like it, teachers like it and the parents are liking it, so obviously it’s effective,” said Solomon. “But we have to be in a place that we help students socio-emotionally, as well as in their learning capacity.”

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