Hillsborough Schools approves new discipline procedures in face of racial disparities

The Hillsborough School Board approved a new discipline plan that it hopes will narrow the difference between how white and black students are disciplined, after it was revealed that black students face twice as many suspensions.

Come call the move a more "sensitive" and "attentive" way of disciplining and suspending students.

The changes include requiring a district administrator to review all suspensions above five days, they hope this method will shine more light on student’s needs and problems.

They will also require more complete descriptions of what a student did wrong, in hopes of requiring teachers to more-clearly identify problems.

Lateness can no longer be a reason for being suspended, which the board says was forcing too many kids to be left behind in their school work for a relatively small violation.

At the meeting, one speaker supported the changes because she said too many kids are being needlessly suspended and then falling behind on work until they drop out.

"Let's keep them in school, get them educated, so they can be productive citizens, so they can lead this great country."

But others were concerned the changes would make it difficult to separate students with challenges from the rest of the class.

And one board member supported the measures "with reservation."

"(We now have to) identify the challenges, and the paperwork that's going to have to be processed," said member Melissa Snively. "Then do we get social services and law enforcement involved, and where do we draw the line when it comes to how far we need to go to control the success we want our students to have.

The school district is also moving to allow students to have a parent or guardian present anytime the student is being interviewed as part of a criminal investigation.

The district is also aligning penalties for more-serious offenses with the state statute.

The procedures passed unanimously and go into effect this coming school year.