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Disciplinary panels up in GCPS

SUWANEE - Gwinnett County Public Schools has seen a slight increase in the number of disciplinary panels in the first quarter of the school year compared to last year, but an administrator said he expects the school system will see an overall decrease in panels by the end of the year.

Jim Taylor, executive director of academic support, presented the school system's first quarter disciplinary report to the Gwinnett County Board of Education this week.

"The information in this first quarter report - Aug. 1 to Oct. 31 - gives supportive evidence of uniform enforcement of disciplinary practices in our schools," Taylor said. "Students who commit major rule violations continue to appear before a hearing officer or disciplinary tribunal at a steady rate."

The school system reported 422 disciplinary panels since the beginning of the year, compared to 339 during the same period last year, according to the report. That amounts to about 2.7 panels per 1,000 students so far this year, an increase from an estimated 2.2 panels per 1,000 students in the first quarter of the 2007-08 school year.

The number of out-of-school suspensions has also increased, the report shows. The first quarter data show 5,372 suspensions, an increase of 1,010 from the same period last year. That averages to nearly 34 suspensions per 1,000 students this year, compared to about 28 per 1,000 students last year.

Ninth-graders have the most out-of-school suspensions, which is consistent with national trends, Taylor said.

The number of in-school suspensions has decreased this year. There have been 8,921 in-school suspensions this year, while there were 8,973 during the same period last year, according to the report.

"As evidenced by the consistent use of in-school suspensions, the administration also remains committed to keeping students in school and engaged in instruction," Taylor said. "To further illustrate this practice, most students who are not offered the option to attend one of the two GIVE Centers - because of serious and/or persistent rule violations - have the opportunity to participate in GCPS' Project Rescue."

In the first quarter of the school year, 19 students participated in Project Rescue's Day Program, which provides a schooling option for students serving long-term suspensions or permanent expulsions, and 43 attended the Adult Education/GED Program, which serves students who may or may not be serving a suspension.

When Project Rescue started in 1995, it served eight students. Last year, it served more than 100 students, according to the report.