CPS superintendent responds to data showing rising disciplinary actions

New data shows the number of students being disciplined in Cincinnati Public Schools is going up.
Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 5:38 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - New data shows the number of students being disciplined in Cincinnati Public Schools is going up.

As a parent, you want your child to be safe and stay out of trouble while at school.

In CPS schools, there are three tiers of discipline that range from loss of privileges to charges being filed if a law is broken.

Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Iranetta Wright said a top priority is making sure parents and students fully understand the district’s expectations.

“We’ve started the year by doing a review,” explained Wright. “By reviewing the code of conduct with the students. We did an opening video with all of our students. Our schools are showing that [video] across the district and students are responding that through an acknowledgment and we’re asking families to review the code and acknowledge it, as well.”

Wright speaks often of what is called “restorative practices,” which she says is an alternative to punitive discipline.

Restorative practices are said by the district to be “a specific set of proactive and responsive strategies for strengthening relationships/community and repairing harm when it is caused.”

A student regularly checking in with an administrator or completing community service are two of the many examples of these practices listed in the code of conduct.

“Regardless of what happens, we want our students to learn from the choices that they make,” said Wright. “If they make a mistake or if they make an error, we want that to be a learning experience for them.”

In 2020, CPS unanimously approved an anti-racism policy, an element of which the district said was aimed at reducing disparities in discipline.

Despite that, a July district committee report states there remains a “persistent disproportionality” in office referrals of Black students. In other words, there is a higher percentage of Black students sent to the office than there is in the district.

Data in that report shows just over 61% of CPS students are Black, but Black students accounted for more than 80% of referrals to the principal’s office.

Wright said the district is working towards a goal of training staff, volunteers, and mentors in areas like cultural competency.

“Helping individuals understand the implicit bias that may exist just because others don’t understand or they don’t have a real clarity around particular situations,” Wright said. “It is going to take some time because it is important that we work through it.”

Wright was quick to point out this does not offer an excuse for students who make poor choices.

Some students are disciplined,” Wright explained. “Some students have infractions because they’ve done the wrong thing. They’ve made the wrong choice and so that’s how it gets to that point, but we do want to make sure we remove all of the barriers so when we’re looking at that data, we’re looking at what is actual, not just what is perceived.”

What is the difficulty in striking that balance?

Holding kids accountable for their actions, but not wanting kids to end up in the system at a young age.

“That’s what is so important about working with our school resource officers (SRO). Our SROs are parents, they’re aunts, uncles and coaches,” said Wright. “Most recently, I’ve had quite a bit of conversation with our juvenile judge about how we may do additional work together in a preventative way so our students know what expectations are and what consequences could be before they end up in the juvenile justice system.

Wright said the district wants to be more transparent, especially with parents and families about discipline, so they are working to ensure every single infraction at every school is recorded into their system.

She added that is a point of emphasis for this year.

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