- Associated Press - Saturday, January 21, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - St. Paul school board members seem satisfied that the district is on the right track with its approach to changing the climate at schools school climate even though student suspensions remain high.

The district assigned a task force last school year to recommend changes amid an increase in attacks on teachers, the St. Paul Pioneer Press (https://bit.ly/2jujTkJ) reported. The task force’s September report was rebuked by board members, who wanted to hear what concrete steps the district should take.

School disciplinary data from the first quarter of 2016 shows suspensions are down 21 percent compared with the first quarter of 2015, but higher than the same period during the previous three years.

“Of concern are the persistent patterns of who we suspend and when we suspend them,” said research director Stacey Gray Akyea.

In a recent presentation, the task force showed the results of community partnerships at several schools. The group also spoke about six school pilot projects that promote relationship building over punishment.

Battle Creek Elementary principal Craig Anderson told the board a mental health worker has visited three days a week to work with students that regular staff don’t have the capacity to help.

The Gordon Parks High School’s new class on its African-American namesake is getting some of the credit for a big decline in suspensions at the school this year.

Hamilton Bell, principal of the grades 5-8 Farnsworth Aerospace campus, said the school’s restorative practices project has been powerful. He said students appreciate the chance to work through their problems in talking circles.

“They say at least you’re listening to me and you care about me,” he said.

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Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, https://www.twincities.com

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