1 out of 4 discipline referrals sent back

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BELOIT — Out of the 55 requested administrative hearings in the School District of Beloit in 2015-2016, nearly 1 in 4 were intercepted and did not proceed to a hearing officer.

Six hearings were deferred due to students' disabilities, according to Director of Pupil Services Emily Pelz. Seven were canceled by administration, according to data in a board packet.

Pelz noted disabilities can include learning disabilities, emotional behavior disabilities, autism, intellectual disabilities and other health impairments. When students have such disabilities, she said the information is taken into account when deciding whether to move forward with an administrative hearing in accordance with special education law.

"The principals were being empowered to utilize alternative placements, put in place behavior contracts and AODA contracts at the building level instead of through an administrative hearing. Traditionally they would go through an administrative hearing for those processes," said Director of Pupil Services Emily Pelz.

Customarily in the district, hearing officer Laurie Medina would have been tasked with going forward with an administrative hearing once it has been referred and requested from a school building administrator. However, in 2015-2016, Pelz confirmed there was a break in that tradition with central administrators sending the issues back to building principals to alternatively place students and implement behavior-related contracts.

Pelz said the only administrators that deal with administrative hearings are herself and then-assistant superintendent (now acting superintendent) Darrell Williams.

Pelz is scheduled to give a detailed report on discipline data to the board of education during Tuesday’s special meeting at 5:30 p.m. However, the report is the next to last on the agenda. If the special meeting goes past 7 p.m. when the business meeting starts, the board would have to reconvene after the business meeting, at around 8:30 or later.

The agenda also includes a closed session discussion of the superintendent evaluation.

The report features information on the types of offenses being committed, which schools have the most discipline referrals, the racial breakdown of students getting administrative hearings and expulsions, the types of discipline implemented and the number of administrative hearings which were requested but didn't occur.

Following are some highlights from the report.

• There were a total of 36 administrative hearings for African American students in 2015-2016. Four of the hearings didn’t occur due to students' disabilities and six of the hearings were canceled by administration. In school options or alternative placements were used.

• There were six administrative hearing requests for Hispanic students and one was canceled by administration. In school options or alternative placements were used.

• There were 13 administrative hearing requests for white students, with two not resulting in a hearing due to students' disabilities. None of the white students’ hearings were canceled by administration.

• In 2014-2015 there were 116 administrative hearings and 69 expulsions and in 2015-2016 there were 42 administrative hearings and 16 expulsions.

• In the first semester of 2016, level 300 discipline referrals were broken down by race as follows: 49 percent of referrals were for African-American students who accounted for 22 percent of the student population; 16 percent for Latino students, who accounted for 33 percent of the student population; and 28 percent were for white students which were 37 percent of the population.

There are four levels of offenses with level 3 and 4 being more serious.

Level 3 offenses include some of the following: aggressive unintentional physical contact with a staff member, alcohol distribution, fight with a weapon, bullying of a more serious nature and sexual conduct or harassment, among others.

In the first semester of 2016-2017, level 400 discipline referrals are broken down by race as follows: 47 percent were for African-American students; 13 percent were for Latino students and 34 percent were for white students.

Examples of Level 4 offenses include intentional aggressive physical contact with a staff member, arson, dangerous weapons, drug distribution, robbery with or without a weapon and threats of a physical attack with a firearm or explosive device.

In 2016-2017, there were 17 level 400 referrals for aggressive contact with staff; 5 for dangerous weapon, not firearm; 7 drug distributions; 1 fire alarm/bomb threat; and 2 for possession of firearms.

In 2016-2017’s first semester, Beloit Memorial High School had 7 level 400 discipline referrals; Cunningham, 6; McNeel, 6; Todd, 5; Fruzen, 3; Aldrich, 2; Beloit Learning Academy, 1; Converse, 1; and Hackett, 1.

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