GCS Shows Improvement in School Discipline Data

Guilford County Schools (GCS) experienced a significant drop in disciplinary offenses during the 2011-12 school year, according to data presented to the Board of Education on Thursday.

The number of total offenses went from 37,626 in 2010-11 to 29,934 in 2011-12. Offenses resulting in either an in-school suspension or an out-of-school suspension also fell by about 800 each to just more than 10,000 for the year.

The report showed a 17.7 percent reduction in the number of state-reportable offenses for 2011-12. The number of violent acts fell from 693 in 2010-11 to 589 in 2011-12, putting the district just shy of its Strategic Plan goal to reduce that number per 1,000 students by 10 percent.

The number of overall out-of-school suspensions related to non-compliance and discourteous acts decreased from 5,281 in 2010-11 to 4,213 in 2011-12, a 39.3 percent decrease from the 2007-08 baseline measure of 6,972. This exceeds the Strategic Plan goal to reduce that number by 15 percent.

"We are encouraged that our disciplinary issues are moving in a positive direction," says Gwen Willis, chief student services officer. "While there is certainly room for improvement, the district's emphasis on character development is yielding substantial results."

Staff members also shared results of student surveys on school learning conditions. Students in grades 7, 9 and 11 were asked their opinions on a scale of one to five about school culture, educational quality and safety.

Respondents gave the district better than average marks regarding academic engagement (2.86), social engagement (3.07), 21st century skills (3.13), caring and safe school environments (2.97) and classroom environments (3.04). The scores were on par with or slightly above the state averages in those categories.

Fourth-graders also took a yes-or-no survey showing that 89 percent believe anyone can help make the world a better place and 84 percent believe their school recognizes students who demonstrate good behavior. Only five percent did not feel safe at school; however, 27 percent worried about being picked on or threatened while at school.

While the results were generally positive, district officials offered plans for improvement that would focus on more equitable disciplinary measures and strategies to reduce bullying. Those include expanded training for principals and school resource officers, an expanded middle-school mediation program, increased guidance support and additional training through Guilford Parent Academy.