- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Oklahoma City Public Schools has suspended fewer students so far this school year than it did over the same period last year, as the district tries to address a disciplinary problem that prompted an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education.

Data provided Tuesday by the school district indicates a 42.5 percent decrease in student suspensions, The Oklahoman (https://bit.ly/1iwu3fT ) reported. The district suspended 664 students between Aug. 3 and Sept. 18, compared to 1,155 students over the first seven weeks of last school year.

Earlier this year, the district announced a new strategy for dealing with students who misbehave. The plan includes efforts to reduce long-term or out-of-school suspensions and to provide counseling to troubled students.

“The district is not reluctant to suspend for offenses that involve the safety and security of a school,” said Chuck Tompkins, the district’s director of student discipline and compliance. “However, we are taking a good look at whether or not some offenses are worthy of a suspension.”

Students are no longer being suspended for truancy, a common practice last school year, Tompkins said.

“Why suspend a student out of school for not coming to school?” he asked. “The school district knows that in order for a student to learn, they must be present and actively engaged. That is why we have developed alternatives to suspension.”

Oklahoma City Public Schools is being investigated by the Department of Education over possible civil rights violations relating to how the district disciplines minority students. A review of disciplinary practices at the district’s 14 middle and high schools determined that minority students have been suspended at much higher rates than white students.

School district officials credit the new student discipline and compliance office, led by Tompkins, for the improvement in student suspensions, as well as the willingness of school administrators to spend more time on interventions that benefit students.

“I do believe that schools are, again, asking ‘what is best for the child?’ ” Tompkins said. “We have not stated that you cannot suspend students, but we do want to identify root causes and reduce the number of repeat suspensions.”

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Information from: The Oklahoman, https://www.newsok.com


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