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School discipline data show guys got in trouble three times as often as girls

Counselor says reason may be differing levels of connectedness

Posted: Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Are Juneau's girls better behaved than its boys?

Photo Illustration By Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire
Photo Illustration By Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire

Yes, apparently.

Across the Juneau School District, 75 percent of all principal-level discipline occurred with a male student in the 2008-09 school year, according to data from district Director of Student Services Dave Newton.

Juneau-Douglas High School guidance counselor Frank Coenraad said one reason may be differing levels of school connectedness.

"I don't want to just say 'Boys will be boys,'" he said. "I feel that the more connected the student is at the high school, less in terms of behavioral issues will arise."

Coenraad pointed out that when students are involved in activities, they have more adults involved in their lives and have to maintain certain grades in order to participate and travel.

"It gives them the impetus to work harder and behave," he said.

Last year at JDHS, there were 408 girls and 392 boys involved in some type of activity, according to information from the JDHS activities office. The office did not have the information divided by type of activity.

Over his years in working at JDHS, Coenraad said he has noticed an anecdotal difference between boys' and girls' involvement in non-athletic activities, though he perceives athletic involvement as about equal between the two sexes.

"I don't know how all that fits into discipline, but it could," he said. "Right now, certainly the girls seem to be outshining the boys in some of the positive attributes, like stronger academics, involvement in activities other than sports and more leadership."

In the district's recent 2008-2009 student achievement report, girls outperformed boys in reading, writing and math. Boys outperformed girls in science.

While nationwide reports in recent years point to a changing gender achievement gap between boys and girls, the independent think tank Education Sector says the hype is overrated in its report, "The Evidence Suggests Otherwise: The Truth about Boys and Girls."

"The real story is not bad news about boys doing worse; it's good news about girls doing better," it says.

Rhonda Hickok, who spends half her time as activities coordinator at Thunder Mountain High School and half her time district-wide, said while she too sees a higher percentage of girls involved than boys, she thinks other factors come into play.

"Yes, I think sports and activities work to keep kids focused and making good decisions, but I would say there's probably a bigger picture behind this," she said, pointing out that girls and boys mature at different ages. "I like to think we do a fair job in ensuring the message we send out to youth is the same - I like to think it's not just boys getting caught more."

National research into behavioral differences between the sexes suggest that girls and boys engage in equal amounts of indirect aggressive behavior, whereas boys engage in more direct aggressive behavior than girls.

"When we look at adolescent development, boys are greater risk takers at times than girls," Hickok said.

The male-female discipline rate in the school district, however, is fairly consistent across age groups:

• In elementary schools, males received 76 percent of all discipline.

• In middle schools, 70 percent.

• In high schools, 82 percent.

At the elementary school level, girls and boys tend to act out in different ways, Harborview Elementary School guidance counselor Amy Buchman said.

Buchman said girls tend to act out primarily verbally, or through communication, whereas boys tend to act out more through body language. She also pointed to differing societal behavioral pressures for girls and boys, like the idea that girls should be more nurturing and boys should hold back on emotions.

"We're still trying to get a grasp on it here," she said. "It would be really interesting to see what would happen if we could get some research on it - if we could get data on what ... kids are doing in their spare time that might have an influence."

Newton presented his compilation of extensive discipline data to the School Board on Tuesday.

• Contact reporter Mary Catharine Martin at 523-2276 or maryc.martin@juneauempire.com.



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