School arrests decline; team to analyze data

By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Tue., Jan. 22, 2013
Interim Superintendent of Schools Dr. Richard Kisiel presented suspension information to the Board of Education on Monday, Jan. 14. He envisions an accountability team created and in place at the beginning of the next school year. Photo by Christian Mysliwiec.
Interim Superintendent of Schools Dr. Richard Kisiel presented suspension information to the Board of Education on Monday, Jan. 14. He envisions an accountability team created and in place at the beginning of the next school year. Photo by Christian Mysliwiec.

Data shows that arrests made at Manchester High School and Illing Middle School have been declining – dramatically – since 2010. “In the 2010-2011 school year, we had 137 arrests at the high school on school grounds,” said Police Chief Marc Montminy, giving a report to the Board of Education on Monday, Jan. 14. The majority of those charges were breach of peace, with other charges ranging from possession of narcotics or alcohol by a minor, to trespassing and assault in the third degree. More rare was bringing a weapon on school grounds, and there was one charge of sexual assault in the fourth degree.

In the next school year of 2011-2012, there was a sharp decline in arrests, he said, down to 30. Currently, there are 21 arrests for 2012-2013, representing an 84.6-percent reduction.

Illing Middle School is also seeing a steady decline in school arrests. In 2010-2011, there were 30 arrests. In 2011-2012, that number dropped to 23, and so far for 2012-2013, there are only four.

Montminy said that the data indicates a collaborative effort between police and school officials. “It entails the police department stepping back to allow school officials to implement other resources other than the criminal justice system to handle school-based problems,” said Montminy.

Also discussed at the Board of Education meeting were the quarterly suspension results within the school system. Interim Superintendent of Schools Dr. Richard Kisiel presented the numbers from September to November to the board.

“We see an overall reduction of suspensions,” said Kisiel, referring to both in-school and out-of-school suspensions. However, there is an increase in external suspensions, 96 last year and 115 this year, which Kisiel noted was driven by two of the elementary schools.

“We're talking about youngsters who are acting out and being unruly not because they want to behave badly, it's because there's something happening in their home life, or there's maybe a mental health issue that causes this behavior,” said Kisiel. “Suspension isn't necessary because it's a punishment; it's necessary because we have to exclude the child temporarily from school for his or her own safety and the safety of others.”

Because suspension does not necessarily address the root cause of a child's misbehavior, Kisiel called attention to the integrated system model adopted by the high school. In the integrated system, an entire team – the assistant principal, the social worker, the psychologist and guidance counselor – work to make an intervention in the child's behavior.

The data also revealed that minority students are twice as likely to be externally suspended from school and three times as likely to be internally suspended from school. “I would pose the question, are students misbehaving at a disproportionate rate, or is there a disparate treatment of minority students who are misbehaving?” asked board member Sarah Walton.

This and other questions could receive answers as the information is analyzed further. “This is our beginning effort to accumulate this information so that we can make decisions in the best interest of our children,” said Kisiel.

More complete data will be completed as the school year progresses. Going forward, the school administration plans on submitting the information to a district-wide accountability team that will analyze the data and suggest new support programs or alterations to current ones. Kisiel also said that the administration will be seeking guidance from the state Department of Education to set up such a team.

“We're reaching high-stakes accountability across the state,” said Kisiel. “In order to impact change throughout the district we need to have a holistic look at all of this information to make some determination on how we are to proceed.”

The team is expected to be in place at the beginning of the next school year.


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