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Amid rising suspensions, Portsmouth considers changes to student discipline


RESERVATIONS AHEAD OF TIME. (STEPHANIE) WE START AT 5:30 WITH THE POSSIBILITY OF BIG CHANGE COMING TO TO PORTSMOUTH PUBLIC SCHOOLS. IT’S A FOLLOW UP TO OUR EXTENSIVE REPORTING ON THE HIGH RATE OF SCHOOL SUSPENSIONS — AND THE DISTRICT’S EFFORTS TO BRING DOWN THOSE NUMBERS. (CHRIS) THIS WEEKEND, THE SCHOOL BOARD WILL VOTE ON A NEW CODE OF CODUCT THAT COULD CHANGE THE WAY STUDENTS ARE PUNISHED FOR SEVERAL OFFENSES. 10 ON YOUR SIDE’S JOE FISHER IS HERE NOW WITH A LOOK AT THE PROPOSED CHANGES. STEPHANIE, CHRIS — OUR INVESTIGATION FOUND THE NUMBER OF SUSPENSIONS IN PORTSMOUTH HAS GONE UP ABOUT 20 PERCENT OVER THE LAST THREE YEARS. SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER TED LAMB SAYS THE PROPOSED CHANGES FOR ATTENDANCE, FIGHTING AND BRINGING FAKE WEAPONS TO SCHOOL ARE A STEP IN RIGHT DIRECTION — TO KEEP MORE KIDS IN CLASS. MORE STUDENTS ARE SUSPENDED IN PORTSMOUTH THAN ANY OTHER DIVISION IN HAMPTON ROADS — NEARLY 25-HUNDRED IN 2016. WHEN IT COMES TO STUDENT BEHAVIOR, LONGTIME EDUCATOR SHIRLEY EDWARDS SAYS PARENT NEED TO DO THEIR PART AT HOME. HOWEVER, SHE SAYS TEACHERS CAN DO BETTER JOB IN MEETING FAMILIES AND GETTING TO KNOW STUDENTS. SHIRLEY EDWARDS/PORTSMOUTH “IT HAS A LOT TO DO WITH THE STAFFING THAT YOU HAVE TO SUPPORT THE SCHOOL. IT’S NOT JUST THE TEACHERS, IT SHOULD BE YOUR AIDES, YOUR FAMILY WORKERS, BECAUSE EVERYONE HAS A ROLE.” ONE OF THE NEWLY-PROPOSED CHANGES WOULD DECREASE THE AMOUNT OF OUT-OF- SCHOOL SUSPENSIONS FOR KIDS WHO SKIP OR COME LATE TO CLASS. TED MISSING SCHOOL, MISSING CLASS, AND THEN YOU ARE GOING TO TURN AROUND AND SUSPEND THEM OUT OF SCHOOL.” SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER TED LAMB IS ALSO IN FAVOR OF A NEW CLAUSE TO HELP VICTIMS OF BULLYING. IN THE PAST, STUDENTS WERE SUSPENDED FOR DEFENDING THEMSELVES. TED LAMB/PORTSMOUTH SCHOOL BOARD “WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW IS YOU ARE COUNTING THE VICTIM AS THE AGGRESSOR AND TO ME THAT IS ACTUALLY WHO USE CELL PHONES IN CLASS. ALSO, A CHANGE TO THE WEAPONS POLICY. IN THE PAST — STUDENTS WITH TOY OR PAPER GUNS WOULD BE SUSPENDED AS IF IT WERE THE REAL THING. TED LAMB/PORTSMOUTH SCHOOL BOARD “BRINGING IN A TOY WEAPON IS NOT ACCEPTABLE, IT’S NOT APPROPRIATE, NOT EVEN ACCORDING TO THIS NEW POLICY, BUT AS FAR AS BEING TREATED AS THE SAME, YOU JUST GOT TO LOOK AT THE CIRCUMSTANCES.” EDWARDS SAYS SHE’S HAPPY TO SEE NEW GUIDLINES THAT GIVE DIFFERENT PUNISHMENT TO ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY STUDENTS — ANOTHER NEW ADDITION, BUT ONLY TIME WILL TELL IF THE CHANGES ACTUALLY WORK. WHEN THEY SEND THEM TO SCHOOL THEY KIND OF THINK THE SCHOOL IS GOING TO DO THEIR JOB.” WE’RE STILL WORKING TO GET SUSPENSION NUMBERS FROM THE MOST RECENT SCHOOL YEAR. THE DISTRICT SAYS THOSE NUMBERS ARE NOT YET AVAILABLE. MEANWHILE, A VOTE ON THE NEW STUDENT CODE OF CONDUCT WILL HAPPEN AT THE SCHOOL BOARD’S SPECIAL MEETING ON SATURDAY MORNING. WE’LL BE SURE TO LET YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENS.

Reynold King

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