|For Immediate Release|
|Thursday, December 21, 1995|
State Report Says Disruptive and Violent Students are Being Removed From Schools
Malden - A statewide report by the Department of Education on public school discipline shows that 1,505 violent and disruptive students who carried a weapon or drug in school, assaulted a school staff member, or were convicted of a felony off school grounds, were removed from their classrooms permanently or suspended for periods of more than 10 consecutive days in the last school year ending June, 1995.
Nearly half of the school districts in Massachusetts last year (156 out of 330) had no students excluded from school (expelled or suspended more than 10 consecutive days). Two districts -- Springfield and Lawrence -- had more than 100 student exclusions, while three others -- Boston, Holyoke and Worcester -- had between 50 and 99 exclusions.
The 1994-1995 school year total of exclusions, 1,505, is up from the 1993-1994 number of 958, but that prior year's figure represented only a part-year report completed two months before that school year ended. These compare to a total of 983 students expelled or suspended for more than ten consecutive days in the full school year September 1992-June 1993 (the year prior to the enactment of the Education Reform law), and 573 in the full 1991-1992 school year.
Over one-quarter of the total exclusions occurred in Springfield, and nearly all Springfield students excluded from school received alternative education outside the regular classroom settings.
Of the 1,505 students who were excluded, two-thirds (67%) of students expelled or suspended long-term in the 1994-1995 school year received some form of alternative education outside the regular classroom setting, up from just under 60% in a survey conducted the previous year.
"The Education Reform Act of 1993, and subsequent amendments enacted over the past two years, authorize school principals rather than school committees to expel students who carry weapons or illegal drugs to school, assault school personnel, or are convicted of a felony off school grounds. School principals are using the tools provided in the Education Reform law to improve the climate for their teachers and students, because school buildings and school classrooms are not the place for violence" said Commissioner of Education Robert V. Antonucci in releasing the report.
"If schools are to achieve their goals under Education Reform -- increase literacy, enhance citizenship, improve safety, and hold all students and staff to high expectations and high standards -- then safe, violence-free schools are a necessity for serious learning and effective teaching in urban districts just as they are in suburban and rural communities," Antonucci added.
Under federal law, students with special needs who are excluded from school for a period of ten days or more are entitled to continue receiving educational services, while other students are not guaranteed alternative education under either federal or state law. In the school year 1994-1995, 58.2% of the 1,045 regular education students who were excluded for disciplinary reasons received alternative education, while 90.9% of the 394 special needs students who were expelled or suspended received alternative education.
"One of the objectives of this Department of Education survey of schools is to see what the statewide need may be for alternative education. My strong view is that schools must be safe places for teaching and learning, and some students simply cannot progress effectively in the classroom because they are violent or disruptive. They should be excluded from school, and wherever possible should receive education in an alternative setting which continues to hold them to high standards of achievement," Antonucci said.
Antonucci urged caution in analyzing the raw numbers released in this year's report. "It is not clear from this report whether the total number of students expelled or suspended from school rose in the past year simply because of better reporting by schools or because this was a full-year survey instead of a part-year survey. It also may be due to better security at schools which led to discovery of weapons, or it may be because more acts of assault or drug or weapons possession actually occurred, or because more of the penalties for these acts as exercised by school principals crossed the ten-day-or-more reporting threshold. School districts whose rates for exclusion or for providing alternative education rose or fell dramatically have individual reasons for this data," Antonucci noted.
"We have reasonably high confidence in the data as reported for the 1994-1995 school year, unlike the data reported in prior years. Therefore, this data can be seen as a valid baseline by which to compare future reports," Antonucci added.