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Joliet high school expulsion rate is falling

Published: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 10:48 p.m. CDT

JOLIET – The number of students expelled from Joliet high schools continues to decline, according to a report by the school district.

The expulsion rate has dropped more than 70 percent since the 2007-08 school year, Superintendent Cheryl McCarthy told the school board Tuesday.

While 105 students were expelled in 2007-08, that number dropped to 32 this past school year.

Also, this is the first year the district has done a racial breakdown of expelled students in its report, in compliance with new state legislation approved earlier this year, McCarthy said.

The new law requires schools that fall into the top 20 percent in terms of most expulsions and disciplinary actions over a three-year period “to submit a school improvement plan identifying the strategies the school district will implement to reduce the use of harsh disciplinary practices or racial disproportionality or both if applicable,” according to the Illinois General Assembly website.

In the 2013-14 school year, about 25 of the students expelled from Joliet high schools were African-American with Hispanic, white and multi-racial students making up the remaining seven, according to the report. The majority of all students expelled were male and freshmen.

Also, assault, battery and fighting continue to be the leading reasons for expulsion.

“We attribute the decline [in expulsions] to our district-wide classroom management plan, professional development for our staff, programs to motivate and engage students in their learning – our 1:1 programs and business/community Partnerships – and our Problem Solving Circle progress,” McCarthy said.

The Restorative Practices Problem Solving Circles program was put in place about two years ago. The program, headed by Greg Thompson, a dean at Joliet West, is designed for students who have received an expulsion warning for the first time.

The students and their parents meet with Thompson and community volunteers for at least four counseling sessions to “work off the expulsion warning.”

Board member R. Dale Evans said the overall expulsion problem has been addressed by the program. However, Evans said he would like the district to work further with the community and the students’ families to find the root cause of this racial disparity.

“I think what is quite glaring is the racial breakdown,” he told the board.

Member Tyler Marcum recommended working with the grade school districts to come up with solutions to preempt the expulsion problem since the majority of students expelled are freshman.

Students who are expelled by the school board are placed in Lincoln School, a Will County Regional Office of Education safe school. According to McCarthy, the school board follows up on the students to make sure they enroll and keep track of their progress.

In other news, Terri Schrishuhn, academy coordinator at Joliet West, was selected for the position of assistant principal. Schrishuhn will be replacing Jeff Clinton, who is moving out of state.

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