Bad behavior broken down

Posted: Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pushing, profanity, name-calling and cheating: The Juneau School District has a new tool to measure these types of behaviors and the disciplinary and intervention measures undertaken to curb them.

The district compiled extensive and detailed data on many types of misbehaviors, where they happened, the student's grade, sex, school and race, and the type of discipline taken for the first time during the 2008-2009 school year.

District Director of Student Services Dave Newton said at the Juneau School Board's Tuesday meeting that because this is the first year for which such extensive data has been compiled, it should be considered a baseline year. Previously, the district collected data only on suspensions.

Newton said the report should be helpful both to track trends, such as nature and type of drug offenses, and allows schools to "compare apples to apples" and ensure they're taking similar disciplinary measures for similar infractions.

"At a site level, this has much more power to be used by staff and administrators in making some judgments about the type of discipline, their response to discipline and ways to deal with certain circumstances," he said.

Some trends that might give administrators pause, for example, are that more than 40 percent of all elementary school-level infractions occur in kindergarten or first grade and more than 50 percent of all disciplinary action in high school is in the form of suspensions, he said.

Newton also said that while the district overall saw an increase in suspensions between the 2007-2008 school year and the 2008-2009 school year - from 396 to 445 - middle schools decreased from 137 to 123 total suspensions. The portion of those that were out of school decreased from 71 to 47.

Other highlights:

• In the 2008-2009 school year, the district had 3,089 principal-level infractions.

• Those 3,089 infractions involved 1,058 students, or 22 percent of the student population.

• Of those 1,058 students, 215 had more than three disciplinary infractions.

• 75 percent of all discipline occurs with a male student.

• In elementary schools, males receive 76 percent of all discipline; in middle schools, 70 percent; and in high schools, 82 percent.

• 14 percent of all disciplinary action was in the form of suspension.

• In elementary schools, 8 percent was suspensions; in middle schools, 15 percent; and in high schools, 53 percent.

With few exceptions, beginning grades in elementary schools and high schools tended to make up a higher percentage of disciplinary infractions than later grades; the general trend was toward a smaller overall percentage of disciplinary action later on. At the elementary school level, for example, 26 percent of disciplinary infractions were at the kindergarten level and 11 percent at the fifth grade level. Middle school stayed about even, with sixth grade making up 33 percent, seventh grade 35 percent, and eighth grade 32 percent of infractions. At the high school level, 31 percent of all infractions occurred in the 9th grade and 17 percent in the 12th grade.

Board members commended the detail and clarity of the data.

• Contact reporter Mary Catharine Martin at 523-2276 or

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