BELOIT - Despite what you may have heard, the vast majority of students in the School District of Beloit are well behaved.
This is the key number: More than 90 percent of the student body had no 300 or 400 level offenses - the most serious, attention-grabbing issues - in 2016-2017.
About 9 percent of the student body is responsible for all the serious offenses. So these numbers also are important. Close to a third of that 9 percent suffer from disabilities. There also is a discernible racial component. White and Latino students are involved in such offenses in numbers well below their representative numbers in the student population. Meanwhile, African American students are involved in such offenses with disproportionately high numbers.
The schools with the most discipline issues are Cunningham and Aldrich intermediate, followed by McNeel Intermediate and Beloit Memorial High School, according to records obtained by the Beloit Daily News covering fall of 2015 to March 1, 2017.
There were 690 students committing a total of 1,304 level 300 or 400 offenses in the 2016-2017 school year, according to information provided by the district.
Of the 690 students, 210 were students with disabilities and 13 had 504 plans, meaning they have accommodations because of a disability identified under the law.
In the fall of 2016 there were 7,345 students enrolled, so the 690 students committing the offenses comprise roughly 9 percent of the student body accounting for all of the more significant disciplinary issues.
The 57 offenses at level 400 referrals resulted in 25 administrative hearings, 14 alternative placements and 6 expulsions. Other 400 level offenses resulted in out-of-school suspension.
The information given by the district for 2016-2017 showed similar trends with data obtained through an open records request by the Beloit Daily News for the 2015-2016 school year through March, 1, 2017. The request was made on March 10, 2017 and fulfilled in June.
In the larger sampling covered by the newspaper's records request, there were a total of more than 1,600 level 300 and 400 discipline
Level 300 offenses may include such behaviors as aggressive unintentional physical contact with a staff member, alcohol distribution, physical attacks, fights with a weapon, bullying of a more serious nature, drug use at school, fighting, sexual conduct or harassment, according to a March interview with Executive Director of Pupil Services Emily Pelz.
During the interview, Pelz said Level 300 offenses are administrator-managed with teacher notification, meaning the administrator has complete discretion on what consequences to assign to the offense.
Level 400 offenses may include intentional aggressive physical contact with a staff member, arson, dangerous weapons, drug distribution, bomb threats, rape, sexual battery, robbery with or without a weapon and threats of a physical attack with a firearm or explosive device. Level 400 offenses require an administrative hearing.
Level 300 referrals are subject to and may be forwarded for central administrative hearings, and level 400 referrals automatically are subject to administrative
Cunningham and Aldrich intermediates had more than 300 of the level 300 and 400 offenses for the time period from fall of 2015 through March 1, 2017.
McNeel Intermediate and Beloit Memorial High School each had more than 200 offenses; Hackett Elementary and Fruzen Intermediate had more than 100 offenses; Todd and Gaston elementaries had more than 50; and Converse and Robinson elementaries, Beloit Learning Academy, Roy Chapman Andrews Academy and the summer school held at intermediate schools all had less than 50 of the level 300 and 400 offenses.
Because Merrill Elementary School used a different data tracking system, the newspaper acquired its records in October. Merrill was the last school to be migrated into the Skyward system, administrators said. According to the data from Merrill, the school had 18 offenses.
A discipline overview presentation given during a board meeting on March 21 noted the most common district referral for level 300 offenses was for fighting in 2016-2017, first
The most common level 400 offense for the same time period was aggressive contact with staff.
The March 21 presentation also indicated African American students were involved in disproportionate numbers with level 300 and 400 offenses during first semester 2016.
For example, African American students accounted for 22 percent of the student population in 2016, first semester, but accounted for 49 percent of discipline referrals level 300 or higher.
For the same time period, white students accounted for 37 percent of the school population and received 28 percent of the level 300 and above referrals. Latino students were 32 percent of the population and accounted for 16 percent of referrals level 300 or higher.
Superintendent Tom Johnson said the district is working to address both the academic achievement gap between white and black students, along with other issues with disproportionalities such as discipline. Johnson said the district has offered professional development to staff about race and equity issues.
The district also has been striving to be a leader in diversity hiring. Johnson said, making staff diversity a district-wide goal since he was appointed to the district's top job in February 2014.
(At the end of last week, Johnson was placed on leave. This interview occurred
The objective, he said, is to make faculty and staff more representative of the community and student populations. During the 2013-2014 school year minority hiring for all positions in the district was 14 percent. As of Oct. 4, 2016 minority hiring in the School District of Beloit stood at 35 percent, according to the district's website.
When asked about the higher numbers of level 300 and 400 level referrals among African American students, Johnson said many factors contribute to the situation across the community such as racism, classism and social justice issues.
He also said multiple variables have contributed to an achievement gap across the country, not just in Beloit.
Johnson said he hopes, during his lifetime, the country can find ways to advance the cause of improved race relations. Getting there, and narrowing the academic achievement gap, will require not just schools getting better but communities coming together in a collaborative cause, Johnson said.