Suspension rate doubles

Dec. 18, 2003, midnight | By Anna Benfield | 17 years, 1 month ago

This year's 201 suspensions at Blair as of Nov. 30 are nearly double last year's 120 suspensions at that point, according to MCPS reports.

There were increases in a wide variety of offenses, the most notable being the 70 suspensions for class cutting and 35 for fighting; both figures more than doubled from last year.

Administrator Linda Wolf explained that there have been no specific policy changes during the past year that would account for the increase in suspensions but that discipline was the number one concern raised by staff committees. In response to escalating problems, the administration has begun to enforce rules more consistently, said Wolf.

This year's increase in suspensions is part of an upward trend. Blair's suspensions rose 30 percent from 323 incidents two years ago to 422 last year.

The population increased by four percent this year. While this alone cannot account for the 100 percent increase in suspensions, Wolf said the growing student body is a large factor. "The larger the population here is getting, the more opportunity we have for things to go awry," she said.

Science resource teacher Jennifer Kempf agrees. "When you start putting so many people in one place, you get to the tipping point," said Kempf. "I think the school is dancing on the edge of anarchy."

Math teacher Tyrone Allen warned that the situation should not be oversimplified. "Overcrowding is not necessarily the issue. There is no single issue," he said. "Every school has its unique share of problems, and each student has their own unique difficulties." The home, environment, curriculum and individual profiles are all major factors, said Allen.

Hallway sweeps or "round-ups" have been one measure to manage common small infractions, such as ID losses and tardies, said Wolf. "We've toughened up consequences because things are getting out of control," she said, citing large numbers of pupils in the hall after class starts.

Freshman Larry Johnson said his grades are poorer because his teachers often must pause to deal with misbehaving students. He feels they are acting up to get individual attention.

Class sizes that averaged about 18.4 students last year have risen to about 21.5 students this year, said Joseph Bellino, student information management system coordinator.

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Anna Benfield. Anna Benfield is a CAP swimmer, field hockey and lacrosse goalie and diversity workshop leader. She loves biking, sailing, collages, the zoo and her little brother. More »

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