District 204 Notes Rise In Suspensions Last Year

exterior shot of District 204 administration building
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Mirroring a trend in schools across much of the country, Indian Prairie School District 204 officials recently reported a rise in suspensions this past school year. A total of 445 students across Indian Prairie’s schools had an out-of-school suspension in response to a variety of infractions, including physical aggression, drug use and insubordination.

1.7 Percent

According to district data, a total of 25,966 students were enrolled in an Indian Prairie school this past year, meaning 1.7 percent of the population received an out-of-school suspension. The district however, has a goal in place to have fewer than 1 percent of all students undergoing such a punitive measure.

Higher Than Prior Years

The district’s 2021-22 school year data bucked a pre-pandemic trend. The district did not report suspension data in the 2020-21 school year because of COVID-19. But in the 2019-2020 school year, up to the March shutdown of in-person learning, Indian Prairie suspended 247 students.

In the last two full school years leading up to the pandemic, District 204 had 369 and 330 student suspensions in the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years, respectively.

“Indian Prairie, for years, has been focused on supporting our students and addressing issues surrounding student behavior in thoughtful ways,” Superintendent Adrian Talley said. “Over time, we have seen declining, out of school suspensions.”

Return to In-Person Learning

Throughout the recent school board discussion about last year’s data, the shift in adjusting back to in-person learning was cited as one of the likeliest culprits for the uptick in student discipline and out-of-school suspensions.

“We knew going into the school year that we were going to have challenges, and we did our best to prepare for those,” Nicole Howard, assistant superintendent of high schools, said.

Board member Mark Rising said a big-picture view might explain why there was the increase in infractions and corrective measures last year.

“I’m going to call it like it is. I think kids came back to school, living in environments where there was no guidelines or boundaries or anything like that,” Rising said. “I think they forgot how to act in school. I’m not pointing fingers. I think all kids experienced this to some extent.”

Fighting Top Issue

While there were a number of different types of behavioral offenses, Howard said fighting among students was the top issue, particularly in high schools.

“The number of fights, and the number of students involved in a fight, significantly increased last year,” Howard said. “Although these fights rarely involved serious injury … they were very disruptive to the learning environment, and the students needed to be out of the buildings and away from each other so tensions could subside.”

Pilot Program

As the 2022-23 school year gets underway, officials are hoping to reduce the number of suspensions and will be using a variety of methods to keep students in school, whenever possible, even as issues arise.

Gail McKinzie High School, formerly known as Wheatland Academy, is piloting a program known as Reset this school year. It is aimed at curbing out-of-school suspensions.

Principal LaTanya Harris said the overall desire with Reset is to keep students in school so they do not miss out on critical classroom instruction. “It will be more of a short-term, therapeutic program,” Harris said. “It is designed to focus on behavior interventions and academic supports for students at this time.”

Naperville News 17’s Dave Fidlin reports.

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