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An Iron Range Educator's View: Expulsions, suspensions show Minnesota schools in trouble

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"3222803","attributes":{"alt":"Joseph Legueri","class":"media-image","height":"142","title":"","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"142"}}]]The National Center for Education Statistics reported that in ...


The National Center for Education Statistics reported that in 2011, 49,521,669 students were enrolled in American public elementary and secondary schools. Also in 2011, 839,738 students were enrolled in Minnesota public elementary and secondary schools. The center, in Washington, D.C., collects, analyzes and makes available data related to education in America and in individual states. It produces suspension and expulsion figures based on gender, race, ethnicity, and state. Information from its "Digest of Education Statistics" also included that during the 2011-'12 school year, 3,172,403 students from American public elementary and secondary schools received out-of-school suspensions of one day or more. Of those suspended, 1,084,048 were white, 1,200,401 were black, and 44,549 were American Indian or Native Alaskan. Also during the 2011-'12 school year, 111,018 students from American public elementary or secondary schools were expelled: 39,766 of them were white, 39,443 were black, and 2,443 were American Indian or Native Alaskan. In Minnesota that year, 31,880 students from public elementary and secondary schools received out-of-school suspensions. Of them, 14,005 were white, 11,393 were black, and 1,709 were American Indian or Native Alaskan. Also in Minnesota that year, 1,609 students from public elementary and secondary schools were expelled; 473 of them were white, 927 were black, and 56 were American Indian or Native Alaskan. In other words, during the 2011-'12 school year, 3,283,421 students were suspended or expelled from American public elementary and secondary schools, and 33,489 students were suspended or expelled from Minnesota public elementary and secondary schools. The center also reported why so many students from our public elementary and secondary schools had to be removed from a regular education program for at least an entire day. Violence was by far the main reason. After violence, a distant second was illicit drugs, followed by weapons possession and then alcohol. Now let us take a look at a very revealing and revolting figure from Minnesota's 2015-'16 school year. One would think that 33,489 suspensions and expulsions during the 2011-'12 school year in Minnesota was horrible enough. But only four years later, in 2015-'16, the number of suspensions and expulsions increased dramatically. A Minnesota Department of Education report indicated that during the 2015-'16 school year, 47,573 students from Minnesota public elementary and secondary schools were suspended, expelled, or excluded. This huge increase in suspensions and expulsions tells me our Minnesota public schools are in trouble. I know there are people and organizations trying to do something to remedy the suspension/expulsion problem. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, offers programs to curb school violence, which, again, is the number-one reason for suspensions and expulsions. The CDC states that students may become violent at school because, "Some are just following behavior that they see at home, in their neighborhoods, or in video games, movies, or on television. Sometimes people who turn violent are victims of bullying. They might feel isolated and rejected by their peers." The CDC has several promising programs designed to prevent school violence. If the CDC and other programs would work well enough to actually prevent violence, more than 1 millon fewer students could be expelled or suspended from American public elementary and secondary schools. However, statistics show that programs to curb violence in our schools have not worked very well over the last four years. I am a realist. It is my opinion that our public schools are going to experience more and more violence. And what about the majority of kids who have respect, who study, and who behave in school? What I can see happening to them in an increasingly violent environment is enough to break an old teacher's heart.   Joseph Legueri of Gilbert is a writer, lifelong Iron Range resident, regular contributor to the News Tribune Opinion page, and retired educator who taught English and college writing to grades 7-12 for 35 years at Biwabik and Mesabi East schools.
The National Center for Education Statistics reported that in 2011, 49,521,669 students were enrolled in American public elementary and secondary schools. Also in 2011, 839,738 students were enrolled in Minnesota public elementary and secondary schools.The center, in Washington, D.C., collects, analyzes and makes available data related to education in America and in individual states. It produces suspension and expulsion figures based on gender, race, ethnicity, and state.Information from its "Digest of Education Statistics" also included that during the 2011-'12 school year, 3,172,403 students from American public elementary and secondary schools received out-of-school suspensions of one day or more. Of those suspended, 1,084,048 were white, 1,200,401 were black, and 44,549 were American Indian or Native Alaskan.Also during the 2011-'12 school year, 111,018 students from American public elementary or secondary schools were expelled: 39,766 of them were white, 39,443 were black, and 2,443 were American Indian or Native Alaskan.In Minnesota that year, 31,880 students from public elementary and secondary schools received out-of-school suspensions. Of them, 14,005 were white, 11,393 were black, and 1,709 were American Indian or Native Alaskan.Also in Minnesota that year, 1,609 students from public elementary and secondary schools were expelled; 473 of them were white, 927 were black, and 56 were American Indian or Native Alaskan.In other words, during the 2011-'12 school year, 3,283,421 students were suspended or expelled from American public elementary and secondary schools, and 33,489 students were suspended or expelled from Minnesota public elementary and secondary schools.The center also reported why so many students from our public elementary and secondary schools had to be removed from a regular education program for at least an entire day. Violence was by far the main reason. After violence, a distant second was illicit drugs, followed by weapons possession and then alcohol.Now let us take a look at a very revealing and revolting figure from Minnesota's 2015-'16 school year. One would think that 33,489 suspensions and expulsions during the 2011-'12 school year in Minnesota was horrible enough. But only four years later, in 2015-'16, the number of suspensions and expulsions increased dramatically. A Minnesota Department of Education report indicated that during the 2015-'16 school year, 47,573 students from Minnesota public elementary and secondary schools were suspended, expelled, or excluded.This huge increase in suspensions and expulsions tells me our Minnesota public schools are in trouble. I know there are people and organizations trying to do something to remedy the suspension/expulsion problem. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, offers programs to curb school violence, which, again, is the number-one reason for suspensions and expulsions.The CDC states that students may become violent at school because, "Some are just following behavior that they see at home, in their neighborhoods, or in video games, movies, or on television. Sometimes people who turn violent are victims of bullying. They might feel isolated and rejected by their peers."The CDC has several promising programs designed to prevent school violence. If the CDC and other programs would work well enough to actually prevent violence, more than 1 millon fewer students could be expelled or suspended from American public elementary and secondary schools.However, statistics show that programs to curb violence in our schools have not worked very well over the last four years.I am a realist. It is my opinion that our public schools are going to experience more and more violence. And what about the majority of kids who have respect, who study, and who behave in school? What I can see happening to them in an increasingly violent environment is enough to break an old teacher's heart. Joseph Legueri of Gilbert is a writer, lifelong Iron Range resident, regular contributor to the News Tribune Opinion page, and retired educator who taught English and college writing to grades 7-12 for 35 years at Biwabik and Mesabi East schools.

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