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A concerted effort at Evanston Township High School to keep more students in school rather than sending them home on disciplinary grounds is paying off, as the number of suspensions each year continues to decline.

In a presentation to the ETHS District 202 School  Board last night, Vernon Clark, associate principal for educational services, presented his annual report on student discipline and suspensions, including backup data in the agenda packet that accompanied his appearance..

Of the 4,975 discipline actions taken last year by school personnel, only 595, or 12 percent, were suspensions, Clark said, compared to 799 the previous year.  For the last five years, he said, suspensions decreased some 60 percent, declining each year.

There are two kinds of suspensions—inside and outside. Students serving inside suspensions are present at the school and spend the time in a supportive instructional environment, Brown explained, instead of attending their scheduled classes.

Students serving outside suspensions, on the other hand, are not present at the school and do not receive any instruction.

An effort has been made in recent years, Brown said, to providing alternatives to suspension, whereby students attend class as normal and participate in supports outside of class time.

Last year, 499 days were lost to outside suspensions and 772 were lost to inside suspensions. Alternatives to suspension, however, saved 940 days that otherwise would have been lost to suspensions.

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The total number of discipline actions last year was 4,975, which was a 12.5 percent decline from the previous year after two years of rising numbers, Brown declared.

Of the five federally tracked offenses, he added, only two—drugs and alcohol—totalled more than single digits, with 137 drug incidents and 50 alcohol incidents. The remaining three were smoking, 5; serious bodily injury, 1; and dangerous weapons, none.

The six most numerous incidents at the school were: disruptive acts, 1,394; defiance of authority, 905; tardiness, 654; unauthorized presence, 508; harassment/bullying, 359; and fighting, 293.

By racial category, 438 suspensions were black/African American, 88 were Hispanic/Latino, and 48 were white. Many students were suspended more than once, as the 595 suspensions last year only involved 210 students, a number that has declined by 55 percent over the last five years.

Superintendent Eric Witherspoon emphasized to the board that 93 percent of the school’s 3,086 students received no suspensions at all.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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