Out-of-school suspensions are on the increase, but the number of clinicians to deal with student emotional problems has decreased, according to comments at an Evanston/Skokie District 65 school board committee meeting Monday evening.
Board vice-president Biz Lindsay-Ryan said there has been a growing number of incidents where gay and lesbian students are experiencing “misogynistic and homophobic” comments, and “toxic masculinity” has led to a growing number of fights in middle school.
“That’s the way it was for me in the ’80s,” Lindsay-Ryan said, “but I hope in Evanston in 2022 we can do a little better.”
While specific data was not disclosed, Elijah Palmer, the district’s dean of climate and culture, said out-of-school suspensions have increased this year.
“The reality,” Palmer said, “is these numbers are occurring” in the post-COVID return-to-school environment.
And other numbers are not helping.
Palmer said the 9 to 10 clinicians the district used to have to deal with such issues are down to one or two, due to “burnout” and people leaving.
District 65 does plan to train multiple staff members in restorative justice practices later this month, a way to improve student behavior and cut down the number of suspensions.
Lindsay-Ryan said she’s seen a lot of parental comments that disruptive and violent students are not being punished.
But she said the best way to improve discipline and help students learn is not to have a lock-’em-up mentality.
“We should frame this as a mistake made by children,” Lindsay-Ryan said, and find a way to improve their behavior rather than dealing with incidents as a crime, and creating a “prison-consequence system.”