But she says suspensions have been declining recent years.
Frederick, Md (KM). Whether there is a disproportionality when it comes to student suspensions in Frederick County Public Schools was addressed by Superintendent Dr. Theresa Alban. During a recent appearance on “Mid-Maryland Live” on WFMD, she was asked if minority students are suspended more often than white students. “Yes, there is disproportionality in our suspension data,” she said. “And what that means is you take a look at what percentage of your student population fits a certain demographic.”
Dr. Alban says when the school system reports on suspensions, it has to do so by race, ethnicity, students who receive special education, free and reduced meals or English language services.
A few weeks ago, local NAACP President Willie Mahone said minorities make up 39% of the student population in Frederick County Public Schools, but constitute 56% of the out-of-school suspensions. He’s calling on the Board of Education to put a moratorium on suspensions of minority students, and bring another level of review before that suspension goes into effect.
“I don’t want to dismiss his concern. It’s a valid concern and it’s something we’ve looked at,” Dr.Alban says. “A couple of factors that come into play: there are certain offenses that you have to suspend” She says they include bringing weapons or drugs to school, and fighting.
Also, Dr. Alban says there’s the question of what to do if a student shows disrespect to a teacher. “The area that we have continued to work on gets into those subjective decisions: what’s disrespectful in a classroom? And is a teacher more likely to refer an African-American versus a White student for showing disrespect. And sometimes the data says ‘yes,'” she says.
But the Dr. Alban says the suspension rate in Frederick County Public Schools is very low. “We had a discipline committee that looked at this. And I think that’s why we’ve seen our suspension rate come down so much because this is something we’ve been having conversations about, looking at the data, asking questions, looking at alternative strategies,” she says.
The suspension rate in Frederick County Public Schools is less than 5% “across all levels, elementary, middle and high schools,” according to Dr.Alban.
The Board of Education has not discussed the issue of a moratorium on suspensions of minority students. . But it has put a policy in place to make sure all students have access to the services they need, and are treated in a way which doesn’t give preference to one group of students over another.
By Kevin McManus