The Examiner U-46 News Feed
U-46 Board given data on school safety, culture
By Seth Hancock
The Board of Education in School District U-46 was updated on school safety and culture data and there was a mixed bag in the data presented on Monday, Jan. 22.
In some categories the district saw positive trends but lagged behind the state while other data showed numbers going in the wrong direction.
John Heiderscheidt, director of school safety and culture, presented the numbers starting with results of the 5Essentials survey which is run by the state.
Questions answered by students on general safety show that 44 percent of student in 2016-17 felt safe which is up from 31 percent in 2014-15 while the state average has increased from 47 to 55 percent.
“We’re running underneath the state average, but we’re climbing with the state as they’re climbing towards the positive,” said Heiderscheidt who added there are “similar results” in questions regarding school safety where U-46 students feeling safe has risen from 49 to 60 percent over the three school years, and the state from 65 to 68 percent.
Teachers responses to the surveys questions in U-46 are “flat lined at around 40 and the average for the state is around 48” percent of teachers feeling safe.
For school security checks the district saw 100 percent compliance in door lock and sign-in checks, 98 percent inside greeting time check, 95 percent visitor tags being used and 91 percent on intercom check. The intercom check is up from 83 percent while the visitor tag usage was a slight decline.
Heiderscheidt said “we’re still working with the system” regarding visitor tags and “we’re running into some logistical issues” with the software.
There were 79,000 visitors to U-46 schools last year and Heiderscheidt said all “were checked against our sex offender registration files which the vendor uses. We had 15 matches or so possible. Eight of them were confirmed and all eight were parents, and we must remember that parents do have a right to their child’s education. It’s just that they should be calling us and checking in with us before they come, and come by appointment only when they’re coming to our schools.”
U-46 has completed installation of lockdown locks at all elementary and middle schools and now is working on high schools according to Heiderscheidt, the district was in full compliance of all drills (such as fire and severe weather drills) and 55 percent of staff are trained in Crisis Prevention Intervention.
Heiderscheidt said “the Student Code of Conduct is the major initiative in the last couple of years” that has been worked on, and it has been removed from student handbooks and is now posted online.
Prior to stating the data on behavior events, referrals, school offenses and suspensions Heiderscheidt said “discipline means to teach or to mentor” and “punishment may change behavior, but it is typically short-lived.”
In the categories of weapons, drugs, gangs, bullying and threats the district saw increases in all behavior events except gangs, a drop to 81 in 2016-17 from 117 the prior year. Bullying saw the largest increase, from 381 to 570.
“Bullying has had a pretty big increase,” Heiderscheidt said. “We believe that is because we’ve been putting resources to it and also our anonymous reporting methods online. Those are being used more and more and more.”
The number of school offenses in inappropriate physical contact increased from 317 to 889 and physical aggression from 1,763 to 2,463. Number of fights has dropped from 589 to 317.
Student referrals have increased from 8,802 to 8,883 while the district also broke data down among three racial categories: Hispanics (increase from 4,950 to 5,082), whites (decrease from 1,965 to 1,790) and blacks (increase from 1,181 to 1,299).
For students who received referrals they averaged 4.66 referrals while the district again delineated by three racial groups: blacks (7.14), Hispanics (4.61) and whites (3.22).
Heiderscheidt said the data shows “that our interventions are working for some students… and not necessarily for other students.”
The percentage of all students who received referrals was 22.38 while the percentage of blacks was 51.28, multi-racial 25.54, Hispanic 23.88, Native American 19.76, white 16.59, Pacific Islander 11.54 and Asian 8.48.
The number of out of school suspensions rose from 874 to 1,009, but that is still down from 1,547 in 2013-14. Heiderscheidt said “it looks like we’re going to reach around 1,000 again” this year.
Heiderscheidt implied that school staff is not “applying equally to all students” discipline based on race and the district is looking to take “away some of the discretionary decision making of an administrator in the moment.”
Noting the rise in inappropriate physical contact and physical aggression, board member Jeanette Ward said she was “concerned that we are getting more aggression because we are disciplining it less severely” and asked if the rises could “be due to the fact that we are punishing these offenses less severely?”
Heiderscheidt said: “It’s a possibility. One of the other things we are looking at is that we are better defining those physical acts in our Student Code of Conduct.”
Board member Sue Kerr noted that the number of respondents from some schools on the 5Essentials survey were lower than others and asked if they were included in the number, and U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said the state requires a “threshold” to be met to include them. Kerr asked how many schools didn’t reach the threshold which Heiderscheidt said “it’s a low number.”
Ward asked what Heiderscheidt, when stating interventions weren’t working for some racial groups over others, was recommending for changing how the district intervenes.
“If I had all that right here, I probably would not be working here because I’d be selling a lot of books and trying to change the world, which I intend to try and change the world because that’s who I am,” Heiderscheidt said he challenged “every school to take a look at their data.”
Board member Traci Ellis said “there’s an over identification problem” and “I’m not willing to accept that ‘oh black kids don’t know how to behave’” saying that 6 percent of the student body makes up 51 percent of referrals.
“We must have the best behaved white children in America,” Ellis said. “It has to be. Otherwise, how is that only black and brown kids are being expelled.”
“I don’t think white kids are the best behaved in the district,” Ward responded. “That data says Asian kids are the best behaved in the district if you follow that reasoning.”
“My point was when it comes to expulsions,” Ellis said. No expulsion data was provided.
Ward later clarified that black students did not make up 51 percent of all referrals, it was 51 percent of that population which Heiderscheidt said “that is correct.”