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April 29, 2012

Fewer students suspended from area schools

Eastern only county district to see increase in numbers.

Fewer students were suspended from Howard County public schools last year, officials report.

All but one county school district saw a drop in out-of-school suspensions, according to the annual performance reports that corporations release annually.

Northwestern High School Principal Al Remaly attributes that to a new way of thinking.

“There’s been a mind shift in the past four or five years,” he said. “Now, we think, ‘Let’s do everything we can for every student, so they can succeed’ as opposed to, ‘Let’s only work with the ones who want to be here.’”

That focus on some of the at-risk kids who otherwise may fall through the cracks is paying off, he said.

The number of students receiving out-of-school suspensions dropped by 19 percent at Northwestern in the 2010-11 school year, according to reports.

Only 67 students — 4.1 percent of the school population — were suspended last year. That number was 83, or 5.2 percent, the year before.

But some of it is out of the school’s control, he said.

“In a lot of ways, the number of suspensions is not something that can be predicted,” Remaly said.

Eastern High School Principal Keith Richie said his school started its Comet Cash incentive program a few years ago to promote better behavior. Teachers give play money out to students who improve their behavior or test scores or do something nice for someone else, Richie said. The Comet Cash can then be redeemed for prizes.

“It’s been a very good incentive program,” he said. “We’ve seen our number of discipline issues go down.”

That may be true across the board, but the school saw a spike last year in students receiving out-of-school suspensions.

Eastern High School saw a 103.8 percent increase. Last year, 53 kids received out-of-school suspensions. The year before, that number was 26.

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