Evanston Township High School board members were pleased with a reduction in disciplinary actions and suspensions but agreed on the need to further clarify acceptable behavior for students.

In presenting disciplinary data for the past several years, Keith Robinson, associate principal of educational services, noted that disruptive acts (32 percent) and defiance of authority (23 percent) are the most common causes of disciplinary actions.

The school’s discipline committee will be working to develop a set of specific behaviors that fall into those categories, he said, making what is acceptable behavior more clear to students.

Board member Monique Parsons said she was excited about clarifying the definition of disruptive acts and defiance of authority since those are still very subjective.

The ETHS student handbook, called The Pilot, contains the following definition for Disruptive acts: Expectation: No student or group may impede another’s freedom to utilize school facilities and programs. Students are expected to conduct themselves in accordance with school behavior rules at all school-related events. Posturing and play fighting are not allowed.

The handbook does not include the term “defiance of authority,” although there is a behavioral guideline called “Failure to follow adult directions,” which says: Expectation: Students are required to follow adult directions, including correctly identifying themselves to any staff member who asked them to do so.

The report noted that suspensions last year were down 38 percent from five years ago and the number of other discipline actions decreased by 17 percent. Suspensions as a percentage of discipline actions also decreased from 14 percent to 11 percent in the same period.

Board member Jude Laude said the report seems to be “student-centered” and represents good progress. However, he expressed concern about drug offenses and would like to dig into why is the number of offenses is so much higher for black students.

Board member Patricia Maunsell noted that tardiness still seemed to be high.

Superintendent Eric Witherspoon noted that safety staff have started carrying handheld computers that allow them to issue entry passes to students who are late, so there is more consistency in reporting tardiness. Previously tardiness was reported by teachers and the data may not have been as reliable.

Now, he said, “two minutes after the bell, the hallways are clear.”

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ETHS reduces disciplinary actions and suspensions (10/7/18)

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