Suspension Rates Down, but Teachers Say Student Behavior More Challenging than Pre-Pandemic

Teachers and staff perceive school environments as more perilous and believe students are being disciplined more, the school administration reported, despite suspensions being down from pre-pandemic rates.

Director of School Administration Doug Fulton and Director of Research, Assessment, and School Improvement, Ryan Tyler, presented data along with analysis from staff members during a Discipline Committee meeting on March 28.

Despite teachers and school staff reporting experiencing a heightened discipline rate, the division says school suspensions are down this school year compared 2019-2020, from 625 suspensions to 412. 

“What administrators have reported seeing is mirrored what you see in society sometimes. It is somewhat aggressive behavior from a very small group of students that maybe the elementary school principal wasn’t used to dealing with it,” Fulton said. 

Tyler said that from the start of school in 2019 to Feb. 3, 2020, the division recorded nearly 9900 violations, including referrals and suspensions. During that same timeframe of the 2021-2022 school year, there have been fewer than half the number of violations. 

The presentation postulated various reasons for the discrepancy between the discipline data and staff perceptions. 

“They’re seeing more serious incidents. Whether it’s cases of younger students behaving much more aggressively than we’ve seen or the perception that some of these students are not being disciplined for these incidents,” Tyler said. 

Tyler suggested that experiencing just one act of violence might change comfort levels in schools.

“One act of violence can happen in a building and make students and staff not feel safe. Even if the numbers are down from two years ago, it doesn’t take a lot of incidents to have teachers and staff and families concerned about the violence in the school,” he said. 

He also suggested that staff might be using interventions and supportive measures more frequently instead of writing referrals or suspending students, leading to lower suspension rates. Discipline for behavior, he said, can be subjective, unlike discipline for possession of illegal substances. Those kinds of incidents, or behaviors of safety concerns, accounted for only 27.6% of the violations recorded this school year. Roughly 75% of the violations this school year could be considered subjective.

Tyler also said that enhanced communication to families from school staff and discussions about incidents on social media may be elevating peoples’ awareness of acts of violence. Also mentioned as a possible culprit for problem behavior: younger students missed interventions during pandemic-induced distance learning.

Fulton and Tyler said that data from a year-end survey of families will be key to understanding safety and comfort levels in school buildings.

“We’re curious to see what we get from the perceptual data. What it’s like in the buildings. We see discipline data. Do we also see more concerns from the families and the community about the climate they’re seeing from the culture data?” Tyler said. 

2 thoughts on “Suspension Rates Down, but Teachers Say Student Behavior More Challenging than Pre-Pandemic

  • 2022-03-30 at 3:50 pm

    I’m glad to read LCPS is doing well, for the most part. Rapes & assaults aren’t occurring with abandon — as some tabloids would have you believe. LCPS gets a bad rap concerning student behavior. But I hope everyone remembers discipline starts within the home. The nuclear family is the center of society. Everything springs forth from it. Happy Leslee King Day Loudoun!

  • 2022-03-31 at 10:47 pm

    The data as everyone knows can be skewed to make the public school system look like they are doing a good job. But the fact may be that students who should be suspended or expelled are not because administrators are looking the other way or blowing off their behaviors. In order to compare the data to the truth; a confidential, independent survey should be done and given to every teacher and parents as well.

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